Mate Helping Mate gives voice to rural blokes

A wheat and sheep farmer and former shearer from Stockinbingal, in the Riverina of New South Wales, has launched a new podcast, to raise awareness of mental health and mateship in the bush. 

Mate Helping Mate is a series of six episodes which features stories of farmers, business owners and families who live in remote and rural communities. The series was developed and is hosted by John Harper.  

The series is described as a guide to mental health and provides strategies from other farmers and people from rural communities who have used the strategies to build resilience when struggling in rural and remote communities.   

Having been bitten by ‘the black dog’ himself, John realised how many of his own mates were struggling with depression and their mental health but were not openly talking about it and decided to act.  

“I thought it was about time we had a yarn about how bloody tough it can be out in the bush and how we can help ourselves and our mates,” John said.  

“United we stand, divided we may fall.” 

John originally launched the Mate Helping Mate program in 2006 but found that he was unable to attend all the events or talk to everyone who needed to hear his message. 

“I’ve spent the last few months travelling to communities across New South Wales and Victoria to hear from everyday farmers, locals and experts about what works and what doesn’t, in remote Australia,” John said.  

“The crux of it is, people in the bush face a whole host of challenges that are different from those in the big smoke, including the stress of financial dependence on the land, erratic environmental conditions and social isolation, and increased barriers to accessing health care. 

“There’s also shocking statistics showing that suicide rates increase with remoteness, and that suicide rates in very remote areas of Australia are more than double those within our major cities. It’s an absolute tragedy.  

“So, this podcast is a response to this. It’s by rural folk. It’s for rural folk.” 

One of the first episodes, Finding the right professional support features a conversation between John and his mate Chris McGregor, whose brother died by suicide and who has experienced his own struggles with depression.  

Joined by counsellor David Post, who shares some handy tips about finding a great support team that works for you, the pair discuss the problems they had when dealing with ‘the black dog’ and emphasise the fact that a problem shared is a problem halved.  

*Please note that the Mate Helping Mate podcast series deals with themes of suicide and some listeners might find this upsetting.  

**If this article has raised problems for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If your life is in immediate danger, call 000. 

Tegan Scott

Is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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