16 April 2024

Farmer looking over a green fieldFor most, farming in Australia is a great way of life, but at times it can also be physically and psychologically tough. So, when things get overly stressful, who do farmers turn to for support?

Finding out what farmers want in terms of mental health support is the focus of a new University of South Australia study, with researchers looking to establish who farmers turn to once they’ve exhausted their personal coping systems through family and friends.

The rate of suicide among farmers is twice that of other employed people. However, farmers are half as likely to have visited a GP or mental health professional in the last 12 months, compared to non-farm rural workers.

UniSA researcher Dr Donna Hughes-Barton says it’s vital to hear from farmers to understand how best to support their mental health.

“Farmers face multiple barriers to accessing mainstream physical and mental health care,” Dr Hughes-Barton says.

“There are fewer face-to-face services in rural areas, which means it can be difficult for farmers to access mental health support. We also know from our previous research that distrust can be a problem when farmers feel that health professionals do not always understand life on the land.

“Farmers are very adept problem-solvers, and while this a great quality to have in a practical sense, they tend to ‘tough it out’ when it comes to their mental health, rather than reaching out for support from others.

“Increasingly, mental health bodies are trying to raise farmers’ awareness about mental health issues and the importance of asking for help when needed. But there is a gap in the research about what farmers respond to and want to see from mental health and wellbeing support services.

“This study aims to fill this gap. We want to know what farmers do when they’re experiencing stress, and they’ve maxed out their coping strategies and support from friends and family. We also want to know what support mechanisms farmers would be prepared to engage with once they have reached this point.”

Led by Associate Professor Kate Gunn and the ifarmwell team at UniSA, the study is supported by National Farmers Federation, the National Centre for Farmer Health, and Lifeline Australia.

“Our team is committed to promoting good health and wellbeing for farmers and their communities, and we are passionate about developing and delivering services based on what farmers tell us they want and need.

“Farmers’ voices are at the centre of our work, and that’s why we’re inviting farmers to have their say in how supports and services for them are developed and delivered in the future.”

The anonymous survey takes 20 minutes to do, and all farmers, farm workers and members of farming families are invited to have their say. To complete the survey now, please visit: https://bit.ly/3PLC5nI


Media contact: Annabel Mansfield M: +61 479 182 489 E: Annabel.Mansfield@unisa.edu.au

Researcher: Dr Donna Hughes-Barton E: Donna.Hughes@unisa.edu.au

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