Reaching out can make a world of difference

Jun 22, 2023 | Column

We all know the feeling – lying in bed at night, thinking of all the things you need to get done or about all of the problems in the world.

But what if these feeling won’t go away and they start to affect your life in a very negative way?

One of the biggest challenges in farming is dealing with issues beyond your control. This has been particularly true in the past few years when issues such as Covid, surging input costs, global supply chain issues and floods all added up to test producers. Being tested by a range of issues beyond your control can make it even more difficult to open up about mental health challenges.

The National Farmer Wellbeing Report – which was commissioned by Norco in partnership with the National Farmers’ Federation – highlighted the unique challenges facing the farming community and put the spotlight on an important issue.

It is not surprising that the wellbeing report found weather was the top reason farmers gave when asked what triggered their mental health issues, followed by financial stress, as well as inflation and cost pressures.

There are a range of recommendations in the wellbeing report on ways to combat the mental health issues in rural communities including the importance of checking in on a mate, especially as it’s been shown that farmers respond best to other farmers.

The success of initiatives such as Vocal Locals and Kick Off Ya Boots, which highlight the importance of talking to your mates and being open about your feelings, emphasises how farmers and community working together can help improve mental health outcomes.

Reaching out, whether that be an in-person catch up, a quick chat to check in on someone or even a short text to say ‘how are you going?’ could potentially save someone’s life.

Farming can be an isolating experience, so letting others know they have people they can lean on and mates they can talk to can go a long way to easing the pressures and dealing with the stressful situations that can go hand-in-hand with primary production.

The wellbeing report calls for the creation of a ‘Farmer’s Army’ of mental health advocates, people working in the sector that have been trained to support those facing challenges, and it’s a call that has merit.

PPSA believes the most crucial recommendation in the report is that all levels of government urgently assess the resourcing they provide to farming communities to support wellbeing and mental health.

Dedicated resourcing and fit-for-purpose solutions that will have a real and lasting impact on farmer wellbeing and rural communities is essential.

There are resources available for anyone struggling with mental health issues including Lifeline 13 11 14 for 24 hour free crisis line in Australia, Regional Access 1300 032 186, which offers free professional counselling for regional South Australians; and websites such as ifarmwell.com.au.

While getting off farm can be a tough thing to do at times, it can also be one of the most powerful ways to gain a fresh perspective on issues that are troubling you.

Speaking up and sharing your worries with others goes a long way to better mental health, because as the proverb says a problem shared is a problem halved.

This column was written by PPSA Chair Professor Simon Maddocks and first appeared in the June 22, 2023 edition of the Stock Journal.

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