GRAIN Producers Australia (GPA) has unveiled a national partnership aimed at boosting mental health awareness and suicide prevention among Australian farmers and rural communities.
Announced today, the initiative will see former Australian cricketer Brad Hogg appointed as the inaugural ambassador of GPA’s Farmer Mates Mental Health program.
From a WA Wheatbelt farming family, Brad is currently the ambassador for Lifeline WA, where he shares important messages and his own personal experiences around mental health with different groups and events in regional areas.
The Farmer Mates Mental Health program will allow Mr Hogg’s work and messages to be expanded, to reach more farmers and regional communities throughout the nation.
The initiative is being backed by a strong team featuring Lifeline, Rural Aid and Nufarm.
This will support Mr Hogg’s attendance at a series of forums hosted by GPA with some of its state-based farming members at farm field days held throughout Australia this year.
GPA chair Barry Large said he was motivated to take positive action and establish the new program in response to the impacts of suicides felt by farmers and other members of his local community in WA last year.
“One of the main messages we want to share with other farmers is the importance of mates talking to mates and doing what we can to look out for each other and make a difference,” Mr Large said.
“We’re excited to have Brad as the ambassador of GPA’s Mate’s Mental Health program, knowing how he can speak honestly and openly about his personal struggles with mental health issues, with other people who can easily relate to his country upbringing.
“This will help break-down some of the stigmas surrounding mental health and suicide for farmers and other people in rural areas.
“We’re extremely grateful for Brad’s leadership with the support of Lifeline, Rural Aid and Nufarm, to help make this happen and create some positive impact.”
Mr Hogg said being able to share his story with farmers in an informal setting will help encourage other people to feel comfortable with sharing their own stories around mental health.
“Growing up in a farming community and having many friends and family still involved in agriculture, I’m proud to be working with GPA on this initiative to share these important messages.
“This is a great way to help others recognise the signs they need to look out for with friends or family who might be struggling, and encourage them to reach out for help when needed.
“We want people to know that they’re never alone, and that help is always a phone call away if they need it.
“It’s all about starting conversations that will make a positive change and help save lives.”
Lifeline WA CEO Lorna MacGregor said despite significantly higher suicide rates among men, they were less likely to reach out for help, with only 27 per cent of WA callers to Lifeline’s 13 11 14 helpline being male.
Ms MacGregor said the stigma around mental-health issues was generally more prevalent in rural communities and among farmers.
Rural Aid’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Team of professional counsellors are based in rural towns throughout Australia.
They are passionate about supporting farmers and their families and an integral part of GPA’s new mental-health initiative and creating opportunities for positive engagement.
Rural Aid CEO John Warlters said his organisation was pleased to lend a hand with the support of these trained counsellors who help their communities with a range of services, from early intervention and health promotion, right through to treatment using evidence-based interventions.
Mr Warlters said Rural Aid counsellors are trained mental health professionals, but come with the genuine understanding of farming and the unique challenges and benefits of being on the land.
“Farmers we work with often report that mainstream services inadequately understand farming, or hold a simplistic understanding that can really get in the way of farmers feeling understood and supported,” Mr Warlters said.
“Our team understands these nuances, empathises with the seasonal nature of this work, knowing how to make impact quickly but effectively with solution-focused interventions when farmers are short on time, and maximise the chance for deeper conversations when time pressures are less intense.
“By coming out to farmers’ property, we help overcome some of the barriers to accessing support that farmers face.
“This new initiative provides another opportunity and way to connect with farmers and rural people, to provide our support services and start important conversations to make a difference.”
Nufarm commercial general manager Peter O’Keeffe said his company was proud to be supporting this important initiative to help make a difference for farmers and their communities.
“We believe it’s important to support Brad in delivering his practical grassroots messages about the importance of mental health, working with a grassroots farmer organisation such as GPA,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
“This will help boost awareness of mental health issues in farming communities and help develop better understanding of the pragmatic solutions and options available, and local support networks.
“We look forward to seeing as many people as possible attend these events, to share these messages as broadly as possible, and create positive outcomes that help saves lives.”