Who is on your support team for flood recovery?

Factors in your workplace can impact on your mental health – such as poor workplace support and training, safety, poor workplace relationships, issues with communication and how change is managed. These are called work-related factors, which when not addressed can increase the risks of workplace stress or lead to poor workplace mental health. However, there are some simple ways to reduce these risks on your farm.

Rory admits he has had a tough few months on his dairy farm in central Victoria. With double the average rainfall in October and November, the creeks broke their banks and eighty percent of his farm flooded. That included 400 acres of crop and most of his ryegrass paddocks. His lost 3000 bales of hay and most of his retained seed for sowing next year. Thankfully the house didn’t go under, and nor did the dairy and yards, thanks to the new ring levy we put in after the last flood.  Access was certainly an issue for quite a while and the tinny came in handy until the water went down.

He had to do his best to find dry ground for his dairy herd and has been feeding out like crazy.  The heifers have been trucked off elsewhere on agistment. Donated hay by the truckload has been really helpful. Animal health issues have kept him busy too.

So Rory is feeling pretty tired and has felt a lot of stress about how his business will survive financially and how he will get through all the work in front of him. He is an optimist though and has been taking things a step at a time. He has to make himself focus on the things within his control and let go of those he can’t. Easier said than done…!

Ten years ago, the last time the farm got flooded, Rory learned a few things about keeping his head straight in the months following. He is trying to put in place the strategy he and Dad worked out through those turbulent months. He definitely wants to avoid reaching the same level of stress as they did back then.

When he feels overwhelmed by the workload he tries to take a break to refresh and recharge. He isn’t always thinking as clearly as usual, and sometimes feels he is chasing his tail. So he has found he needs to make lists of jobs, to prioritise and plan.  There are some jobs that will just have to wait.

His wife, Emma has insisted that he doesn’t get so completely buried in his farm work that he skips out on regular catch ups with friends and family. She has been working hard too with extra shifts in the dairy and making sure there are enough workers to cover the milking shifts, when one of the regular milkers needed time off to deal with their own house being inundated in the flood. Emma made sure that the staff always know what is going on, and they have really chipped in and worked as a team, not just with extra hours, but on problem solving some of the issues that have come up. Rory is trying to remember to acknowledge this and encourage them, so has tried to reward the successes along the way. He tries to be positive and upbeat and remember that this is a stressful time for everyone, not just him.

Rory checks in on some of the neighbours pretty often because they got hit pretty hard too. It’s good to talk with each other about their daily struggles and to help each other practically where they can. It makes Rory feel less alone in his struggles. Funnily enough the most helpful bloke to talk with was the agronomist who helped Rory plan out his feed budget and sowing strategy for the next six months. The vet was also great at solving some of the problems with the cows and preventing other issues arising through better management strategies. That really took a big weight off his mind.

Rory managed to work out a bit of a financial plan and took it to the bank manager who adjusted a few of his loan repayments. Even got some money on a government grant to help cover clean up and rebuilding costs and re-sow the lost crop. Rory said the load felt lighter once he had a workable plan and knew he had a team of people who could help support him through these bumpy months of recovery from the impact of the flood. He has even found the time to get back to pre-season footy training so he can hang out with a few of his mates and keep his fitness up which makes him feel much better.

Injuries on the farm can lead to stress, long-term health concerns and loss of income or even fatalities, so preventing them from happening is the best way of protecting your mental health. When it comes to running the family farm, investing in mental health initiatives is not only good for your family and workers, but it’s good for business too.

The NCFH is supporting farmers just like you to manage and respond to work-related risks that impact on workplace mental health – these are factors in your work that can affect an employee’s mental health and include poor environmental conditions, low job control, low role clarity and more.

Managing these factors, means decreasing the risk of work-related stress.
Find out more about being mentally safe on farm at www.farmerhealth.org.au/campfire

This blog is part of the Primary Producer Knowledge Network led by the National Centre for Farmer Health to promote mentally healthy workplaces. Campfire, part of The Primary Producer Knowledge Network, is funded by the Victorian State Governments WorkSafe WorkWell Mental Health Improvement Fund.