by ALEXANDRA LASKIE
EQUAL importance should be placed on a person’s mental health as on physical health and safety, a peak farmer health body says.
As the focus shifts to workplace safety on the farm after Victoria recorded the most number of farmer and agriculture worker deaths last year (14), National Centre for Farmer Health director Susan Brumby urged farmers to be aware that mental health, wellbeing and safety were linked.
“We often split them off, but they’re all intertwined,” Professor Brumby said. “Being in pain, stressed, suffering from hearing loss or musculoskeletal pain all affect your health, wellbeing and safety. Similarly, equipment that doesn’t work well affects your stress levels, may sprain your back, or injury you severely.”
Professor Brumby was involved in the Victorian Farmers Federation-led 2015 mental health campaign Look Over The Farm Gate.
The initiative was a response to the drought in the state’s northwest and was extended the following year when the Victorian dairy crisis struck.
As part of the campaign, farmers were sent postcards with two tea bags attached encouraging them to “have a cuppa with a neighbour … it could make a difference” and fridge magnets that doubled as photo frames with contact details for crisis services.
Professor Brumby said Look Over The Farm Gate worked towards this idea that mental wellbeing was intrinsically connected to a person’s physical health.
During 2015 and 2016 the NCFH delivered workshops at 21 locations across Victoria — from Wycheproof, Boort, Donald and St Arnaud to Numurkah, Moama, Warragul and Heywood — that educated farming families and rural communities about managing stress, recognising stress, looking after yourself and connecting people.
The 296 people who attended were given a NCFH-produced booklet calledManaging Stress on the Farm, which had an initial run of 600 copies.
Some 17,500 copies have since been distributed.