General News Rural — 28 May 2014
Farmers battling with mental health in hard times

DEPRESSION and other mental health problems are hitting farmers hard as they struggle to cope with the effects of two natural disasters.

Diana Sayers, a program manager for Uniting Care Community, said she had teams in the Bundaberg and North Burnett regions providing counselling and crisis response after the 2013 floods and then the drought.

“We are seeing a lot of families and farmers, particularly men, who are struggling,” she said.

“There is a great deal of stress and mental health issues.”

Ms Sayer said men from farming communities were not good at accessing support.

“The message we try to get out is they don’t have to do it on their own, there is financial and emotional support,” she said.bigstockphoto_Farmer_Moving_Sheep_4199952

“They don’t have to tough it out on their own.”

Ms Sayer said sometimes situations became too overwhelming for someone to deal with on their own.

“It’s important they don’t feel shame and it’s important to access help,” she said.

“Isolation is a big factor in mental illness.”

Ms Sayer said her teams were connecting with various groups in the community.

“We’re trying to be where farmers congregate, and providing as much information as we can about what’s available if they do need us.”

Baffle Dairy Fresh owner Bruce Poulsen said he could “absolutely understand” that farmers were developing mental illnesses.

“We had the biggest floods on record in 2013 and then it forgot to rain until March,” he said.

Mr Poulsen said dairy farmers especially were having a tough time.

“It’s been 14 years since deregulation and none of them has turned a profit since then,” he said.

“There’s no money in the industry.”

Bundaberg Regional Council Division 3 representative Wayne Honor said he was aware of people in the region struggling to cope.

“My knowledge of this goes back to late last year when there were severe traumas from the drought conditions and the floods,” he said.

“Severe depression is obviously due to financial pressures as well.”

Cr Honor said graziers were getting the lowest prices for cattle since the 1970s.

“Now we have the sugar industry with a severe drought leading up to the crush.

“The citrus industry was also severely affected by the floods.”

Cr Honor said the health of many people on the land was suffering because they were trying to get their bills paid.

He said the prices of farm inputs were all going up, and people were in limbo.

This article first appeared on ‘The Observer’ on 27 May 2014.

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