Farming can be a challenging business, with mounting business and seasonal pressures. Focusing on how you are travelling as person and the state of your mental health can at times be neglected.
I understand this all too well, this was me. I overlooked the steady decline in my mental health until it was almost too late.
The harsh reality of being a dairy farmer became all too evident when the constant battle of economic pressures, flood and drought all had an impact on my young family, but also on my mental health. This culminated in a decision to leave our farm.
Generally, people living in rural communities are known for being resilient. They face stressors caused by a range of factors such as isolation, weather, the nature of their work and financial issues which is why mental illness in rural communities is of major concern.
While the stigma associated with mental health problems is reducing in Australia, in rural communities the stigma of “too tough to speak up” about emotional and mental health is rife and the suicide rates are 40% higher than those in metropolitan areas.
Mental illness is made harder in rural communities with reduced access to local services, and professionals. Additionally, people generally have feelings of embarrassment or fear to ask for help so they manage their problems by themselves.
However, recognizing when help and support is needed, either for yourself or for someone else, could save a life.
I learnt four vital lessons from my journey:
- Identify your support network - the people who you love and trust and can call on for support when you are struggling to cope or need a chat.
- Communication is key. Communicating how you are feeling is hard and at times hardest with those who are closest to you, but having these tough conversations can save lives.
- Stay connected. Staying connected to your community and support network helps negate the feeling of isolation especially when you are struggling. It also promotes conversation and give you the opportunity to share and gain wisdom from those around you.
- Seek help. While this is not always the easiest of steps, recognizing the seriousness of a mental health challenge and the importance of gaining the right support can influence the rate of your recovery.
To normalize the conversation about mental health it needs a whole community approach to nurture a safe environment that removes the stigma making it more acceptable for people to seek help. This starts with awareness and education, followed by acknowledgement and action.
Your mental health is critical to your overall health and wellbeing. You need good mental health to help you get through life’s challenges, to have healthy relationships with others and to enjoy life. It’s important to remember that when everything gets too much for you and you become overwhelmed that there are people, services, and resources that are there to help you, reach out - it could make a huge difference in your life.
No one should travel their journey alone.
To hear more stories about resilience, persistence, and determination, check out our episode of ‘Beyond the Farm Gate’ with Warren Davies ( The Unbreakable Farmer).
If you or someone you know has a mental illness, there are ways to get help. Use these resources to find help for yourself, a friend, or a family member.
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Headspace on 1800 650 890
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