A new grassroots wellbeing and suicide prevention tool has been launched by the University of South Australia to help provide support for farmers around the country, helping them to tackle the struggles associated with living on the land.
The Taking Stock online multimedia site is free to use and has been designed specifically with farmers in mind, the outcome of a three-year research project that aims to help those in the sector break down the barriers to seeking help, as well as providing information on the support services available.
Suicide rates among farmers in Australia are high – almost 59 per cent higher than non-farmers and up to 94 per cent higher now than they were back in 2018.
The new website and associated resources strives to help farmers recognise that the distress mental ill health and suicide ideation they may have experienced is also experienced by other farmers, helping them to see that they’re not alone.
It includes films, interviews and podcasts chronicling famer experiences, as well as providing information on how to set up local suicide prevention groups and how best to go about connecting and engaging with communities for early suicide prevention.
Professor Lia Bryant, project lead and director of the National Enterprise for Rural Community Wellbeing, said: “We found that on top of key stress factors that affect farmers in general - things like weather extremes, physical isolation, intergenerational issues, and financial pressures, to name a few. There were additional shared risk factors that farmers in the same region (or farming the same commodity) experienced.
“If we want suicide prevention strategies and early prevention to hit home then it was critical that we worked together to co-design a resource that directly addressed the key needs raised by farmers.
“Wellbeing is more than an individual experience. It is created by strong community connections and having local support. Rural communities understand reciprocity: the giving and receiving of support in good times and in difficult times.”
The new site aligns with World Health Organization recommendations to adopt whole-of-community strategies for suicide prevention.
Stephen Matthews of suicide prevention group Riverina Bluebell made further comments on the launch of the site, saying that it should prove beneficial in helping communities set up their own local suicide prevention groups.He observed that local understanding and knowledge is essential for providing farmers with support, particularly with regards to mental health.
“Early interventions are critical, but they must be tailored to the specific factors that give rise to farmer distress, while also capturing the culture of farming and rural communities,” Mr Matthews continued, adding that Taking Stock is covering all possible bases to improve the mental health of rural and farming communities.
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