Farmers: we need to get real about mental health

Farmers love what we do, and do what we love. But when it puts us in vulnerable circumstances, we are unlikely to reach out.

World Mental Health Day is a day for reflection of one’s own mental health, as well as those around us. It is also a day for spreading awareness, starting those tricky conversations and fighting the stigma around mental illness.

For Australia’s farming community, now has never been a more important time to have a chat about mental health. Grappling drought, natural disasters and freak weather events have shaken our community to its very core. Farmers are now more than ever struggling with financial hardship and immense stress.

And although these events aren’t uncommon to Australia, as Dorothea Mackellar once wrote in her famous poem in 1908 – “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains”, for some, the frequency of natural distress and the prolific nature of this drought is like nothing thieve ever experienced.

The black dog is lurking, and I’m not talking about a rogue kelpie.

Mental illness in the bush can be hard to detect at the best and worst of times. Tough exteriors built by the harsh landscape we owe our livelihoods to, and the signature attitude of ‘she’ll be right’ can sometimes get us into to strife.

For some people, talking about mental illness is taboo. It shouldn’t be. Blokes especially don’t want to admit that they’re struggling up stairs, but doing just that can be, quite literally, lifesaving.

It takes real guts to talk about ones own mental health, as well as asking a mate ‘R U Ok?’

To help people in the bush and beyond find their voice, movements such as The Naked Farmer and the Blue Tree Project are spreading much needed awareness about mental health.

The liberating state of nudity and the contrast of a bright blue tree amongst Australia’s rural and remote back drops, have seen these movements gain tremendous traction in the farming community as the message hits home.

Farmers strip off for mental health

Ben Brooksby is a fifth generation farmer from St Helens Plains in Western Victoria. Most days, he works alongside his Dad, tending to crops and sheep. Other days, he spends it spreading mental health awareness through his social media movement, The Naked Farmer.

The Naked Farmer is on a mission to break down difficult conversational barriers that often prevent people from speaking about their own struggles. The movement, which began as a cheeky post on Instagram, has captured the attention of people from all corners of Australia and the world.

I think it takes a lot of guts to get your kit off, as it takes a lot of guts to talk bout mental health

Ben Brooksby, The Naked Farmer
Image courtesy of The Naked Farmer, Twitter

The proceeds of The Naked Farmer’s 2020 calendar will go to the Royal Flying Doctors Rural Health unit, which is dedicated to delivering much needed mental health services to rural and remote areas.

You can check out The Naked Farmer on Twitter, Facebook or through their website.

More blue trees emerge to spread a serious message

Kendall Whyte from Mukinbudin in WA’s Northern wheatbelt launched the Blue Tree Project following the devastating news that her brother Jayden had taken his own life in November last year.

The idea came from the image of a tree that herself and Jayden had painted blue when they were kids years earlier. The memento now serves as a platform to bring people together who have or are experiencing issues with mental health, or have been affected by suicide.

The official tree count is now at 250 with blue trees emerging all over the country, spreading an important message:

It’s okay to not be okay.

Image courtesy of The West Australian

You can participate in the Blue Tree Project through their website or Facebook page.

If you, or anyone you know needs support, get in touch with lifeline on 13 11 14.

Shelby Garnett

Shelby Garnett

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