Aussie farmers are suffering from poor mental health, and it’s up to everyone to help.
New research has revealed that farming communities across the country are struggling with increasing depression and anxiety levels. The insight has left many calling for stronger governmental action in order to support our workers. If governments and industry leaders can work together, perhaps the complex web of mental wellbeing can begin to be untangled.
The study was conducted by Norco, the country’s oldest 100 percent owned co-operative. Alongside the National Farmers’ Federation, they released the National Farmer Wellbeing Report, and the results confirmed a concern many professionals already carried; Aussie farmers are in crisis.
According to the survey, around 30 percent of farmers acknowledge a decline in their mental health over the last few years. In fact, almost half of the participating farmers say they have felt depressed, and two thirds have struggled with anxiety.
Even more concerning than this, around 45 percent of farmers have considered suicide, leading around a third to attempt self-harm or suicide.
These statistics paint a worrying picture of an industry calling out for help. Compared to the general Australian population, farmers are twice as likely to commit suicide. This suggests farmers’ needs are not currently being met, and greater action needs to be taken by professionals to protect this vital community.
From weather to wealth
So what has caused these scary statistics?
Well, according to the report, the three leading impacts on farmer mental health are natural disasters, financial stress, and cost pressures including inflation.
Over the last five years, almost all farmers have been impacted by severe weather and natural disasters, leading to an average cost of $1.4 million a year just to maintain land and production.
This means around 40 percent of farmers have considered leaving the industry to pursue other, more stable careers. And this is only made worse by their perception of their social role. According to the study, around 75 percent of farmers believe they are undervalued by the Australian public.
Norco Chief Executive Officer, Michael Hampson, says that these statistics indicate a growing problem in our country. Without putting in place protection for workers in the industry, the issue of poor mental health will only continue to spread.
“We saw first-hand the devastating impacts the unprecedented flooding event twelve months ago combined with the ongoing wet weather has on our farmers, many of whom are still rebuilding physically, financially, and emotionally.”
“Overlay this with years of heavy drought, bushfires and now rising input costs across all farming sectors and it’s unfortunately the reality that many farmers are doing it tough.”
When you consider the long list of factors our farmers deal with on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that their mental health is suffering as a result. But it doesn’t have to continue.
Aussie farmers need our help if mental health is going to become a priority. A simple way to make a difference is by showing them how valued they are to the Aussie public.
According to Michael Hampson, “to help ensure our farmers feel valued, there’s really no better place to start than by making sure that we, as Australians, choose Aussie farmer products over foreign companies and imported products.”
It’s only a first step, but it’s a step that everyone can take. However, in order to properly fix this issue, we must also take a direct approach in tackling the mental health crisis. And Norco is already on board, implementing a number of initiatives including mental health training, wellbeing tools, community wellness events, and more.
To take this even further, Norco is also providing their field officers and senior members with mental health training. Specifically, many have undertaken the Lifeline Crisis Supporter Training in order to make real difference in farming communities.
Combined with companies like Norco, stronger action from federal and state governmental institutions could make all the difference. Industry leaders are calling for governments to implement initiatives which take a long-term approach to this issue. But everyone needs to be on board.
We need to normalise conversations around mental health and reduce the ongoing stigma surrounding seeking help.
“What we now need to do is consider how we, as an industry and a country for that matter, can help address these challenges and work collectively to better support our highly valued and hardworking farmers well into the future.”
By applying these steps, Norco believes our farmers will be better equipped when dealing with mental health challenges. When it comes to wellbeing, no one should have to fight alone.
If you, or someone you know, needs help, please go to:
Or speak to a trusted friend.
To learn more about the mental health crisis in rural Australian communities, click here.