Be kind to your mind
Posted on June 3rd, 2020
The greatest asset on ground in an agricultural setting is not the infrastructure, the cash flow, or the livestock. It is the humans who lead the enterprise. Farm safety is backed by safety plans, checklists, inductions, guides, and a suite of resources. Do you have a plan for your mental health safety?
Male farm owners and managers are dying from suicide at around twice the rate of the national average of other males (Source: Farmsafe Australia Inc). Recent research by Newcastle University and Griffith University indicates the male farmer suicide rate in Queensland over a ten-year period, sits currently at 37 per 100,000.
Mental health is a critical issue for our agricultural industry, and its front of mind for Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA). In February 2020, Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator (RALF) Vicki Horstman coordinated the delivery of Mental Health First Aid training, funded by Lendlease, to her colleagues at FBA and a local network of landcarers.
“Mental Health First Aid Training is an initiative of our Lendlease Health & Wellbeing Framework aiming to reduce stigma towards mental illness and equip our people with the skills to encourage positive mental wellbeing,” says Lendlease Springboard Program Manager Karen van Loon.
“Fitzroy Basin Association is a wonderful community partner of our Lendlease Springboard Program and we were happy to support this important initiative during these uncertain times while we are unable to be on the Capricorn Coast working in the community.”
A total of 26 participants, including six landcare members from groups across the Fitzroy region and 18 FBA staff are newly accredited mental health first-aid officers. The outreach of these mental health first aiders will impact every corner of the Fitzroy region.
Landcare groups and members, representing Woorabinda Pastoral Company, Capricorn Coast Landcare, Wycarbah Landcare, and Wowan-Dululu Landcare are now equipped with the knowledge and confidence to provide immediate support to members of landcare groups.
Moving from drought to fires and now the widespread impact of COVID-19, the past year has taken a heavy toll on rural communities. Vicki Horstman says that mental health is often neglected when planning for hard times.
“I’m often the only person in contact with many of our rural operators for weeks at a time,” she said.
“The agricultural industry is not a line of work where you shut the door and leave it behind when you go home. It is home. It’s critical to my role as RALF that sustainability of a landholder’s enterprise is looked at from all angles.”
This is the underlying reason why Vicki upskilled in mental health training, beyond first aid. Vicki is also now a qualified Rural Minds Mental Health trainer, the only accredited training program in Australia designed specifically for regional and rural mental health.
The program covers tailored topics such as overcoming stigma, risk factors, depression, anxiety, destructive thinking, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, suicide, alcohol and drug use, relationships, financial stress, and succession planning.
These are just two of the many milestones Vicki has delivered in the past 12 months as part of her role as RALF. Facilitating conversations around mental health at the front gate, the post office or side by side in a paddock is breaking down barriers across the Fitzroy region. Visit www.rrmh.com.au/programs/ to learn more about the Rural Minds mental health program. Vicki can be reached at email@example.com or on 0419 160 537
Help is always available. The following services are available Australia-wide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
Lifeline 13 11 14.
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.