People from farming communities affected by suicide are being asked to complete an in-depth survey to help researchers better understand the impact suicide has on families left behind.
A website called The Ripple Effect, which was launched less than six months ago, aims to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide in farming communities.
More than 7,000 people have already visited the site, which specifically targets men from farming communities — a group that typically offers a hand to others, but will not ask for help in return.
Researcher Alison Kennedy said statistics on farmer suicide were hard to come by due to the lack of research.
But recent research by Griffith University indicated that Queensland and New South Wales agricultural workers — including farmers and shearers — could be twice as likely to die by suicide compared to those in other occupations.
Ms Kennedy said more people were needed to complete The Ripple Effect’s online survey to help shed light on the issue.
“What we really need is to transfer people from just visiting the website to actually registering and participating all the way through,” she said.
The in-depth survey takes a couple of hours to complete and asks participants questions about their farming background, their perceptions about suicide and how they have been affected by the issue.
“The more information and insights we can gather, the better equipped we are to move forward, address farmer suicide and support people who are affected by it,” Ms Kennedy said.
The Ripple Effect ambassador and Livestock SA southern region secretary Tom Dawkins said his day-to-day life had exposed him to suicide experiences “that are too close for comfort”.
Mr Dawkins, who lives in Naracoorte in South Australia’s south-east, has also worked as a rural and agricultural journalist for more than a decade.
“People here would say the suicide in this community has been so tragic. We are not unique, but we have been hurt by suicide.”
Mr Dawkins is one of 30 ambassadors across Australia actively encouraging farmers to take part in The Ripple Effect survey.
“Rural men are tough nuts to crack at the best of times, but especially with matters concerning their own health and wellbeing and that’s why this is such an important project,” he said.
Website supports families of suicide victims
The website features videos of farmers and family members talking about how about suicide has affected them.
“One participant who shared her story told me afterwards that it was like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders,” Ms Kennedy said.
“She’d been feeling this immense sense of guilt following her husband’s suicide and being able to tell her story was a real benefit for her.”
The research phase of The Ripple Effect will continue into next year.
This piece by Samantha Dawes was first seen on ‘ABC News’ on November 24, 2016.