Farming families in Australia have been doing it tough for a long time now and our donors have continued to dig deep to support them.

As a result we’ve announced a total of $50,000 in new grants to support the mental health and wellbeing of farmers via Lifeline, Red Cross and Aussie Helpers:

  • $10,000 has gone to Lifeline Central West NSW’s Gatekeeper program and $10,000 to Lifeline Gippsland’s Farmer Mentor program – both designed to upskill the community to support farmers experiencing difficulties.
  • The Australian Red Cross’ Community Drought Relief program has been granted $15,000 to support communities in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. The program brings people together to talk and gives them an opportunity to get help for their physical, mental health and wellbeing needs.
  • A grant of $15,000 has gone to Aussie Helpers’ Virtual Psychologist program. This service aims to offer psychological support and psycho education to drought affected farmers in remote areas via SMS, email, phone, online chat and where required, face to face counselling on farming properties.

This latest round of grants adds to the $30,000 already given out in August and September towards community capacity building and food relief in drought affected communities, and a $20,000 grant to support Rural Aid’s farm rescue project in drought affected communities under the Grassroots Grants 2018 program, bringing Aussie Farmers Foundation’s grant droughts to $100,000 in 2018.

LIFELINE

Lifeline Central West covers 1/3 of rural and regional NSW and the centre is seeing large amount of distress in the community due to drought. To meet local needs and build community capacity and resilience the centre has developed a specific training package called Gatekeeper Training.

The aim of the training is to provide a wider group of people in a community with “Gatekeeper skills” to:
• strengthen the community’s collective ability to recognise and support those who need help, resulting in more people being referred or encouraged to seek help
• promote awareness and build the skills of self-care
• through more open conversations, chip away at the stigma associated with help-seeking.

Lifeline Central West CEO, Stephanie Robinson told us: “The $10,000 grant from the Aussie Farmers Foundation will allow us to deliver our training to more people including our first full day training package in Bathurst.

“Most people in our community aren’t equipped with the skills on how to handle situations or help someone in desperate need. We have seen first-hand the impact the Gatekeeper Training has on the capacity of participants to identify someone in crisis and know the steps to take to keep them safe. It quite literally has already saved several lives in our community. For that we cannot thank the Aussie Farmers Foundation enough.”

The Gippsland Shire is still witnessing the lasting impacts of the 2016 Dairy Crisis. Add in the current climate concerns and you see a community that is really struggling.

Lifeline Gippsland is trialling a mentoring program for farmers and is available to farmers who:
• are experiencing a current crisis as a direct or indirect result of drought conditions, financial pressures or personal challenges; and/or
• are caring for someone who is experiencing a current crisis as a direct or indirect result of drought conditions, financial pressures or personal challenges.

“Our Farmers’ Friend program is providing the listening ear for farmers who are doing it tough. With the support of the Aussie Farmers Foundation we are better positioned to spread the word about Farmers’ Friend and know that we have the resources to support them,” said Michelle Possingham, CEO Lifeline Gippsland.

“The program encompasses both emotional support through mentoring and an informal session called ‘Mind Your Mate’ that is about connecting with people and what to do if you identify that they are struggling.”

Farmers who have engaged with the program report they are far more likely to reach out to someone they fear might be struggling, and 94% report that they feel confident that they know how to provide support if the person discloses that they are doing it tough.

RED CROSS

Australian Red Cross is running an ongoing drought recovery program, which brings people together to talk and provide thems with an opportunity to get help to meet their physical, mental health and wellbeing needs. It’s run by volunteers, many of whom are from farming families themselves. They conduct telephone outreach, go door-to-door to see how people are travelling, and organise community events to bring relief and get people talking to each other.

Farmers are telling the Red Cross that the program helps them understand they’re not going through the drought alone and gives them the incentive to ask for support.

The Red Cross says support from major donors including the Aussie Farmers Foundation has enabled Red Cross to assess needs and provide additional support in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.

The program adds to Red Cross’ long-term drought recovery work including its ‘Let’s Talk’ program in New South Wales, facilitating opportunities for people to come together and socialise and reduce isolation.

AUSSIE HELPERS

Aussie Helpers’ innovative mental health strategy was launched in 2016 in conjunction with Virtual Psychologist. This service aims to offer psychological support and psycho education to drought affected farmers in remote areas via SMS, email, phone, online chat and where required, face to face counselling on farming properties.

Furthermore, mental health training and support is provided to all Aussie Helper volunteers who visit the rural farmers. Where relevant, local community-based services are linked in to this service.

Aussie Helpers says its program is serviced by qualified psychologists and mental health professionals who have years of experience in the field of mental health and have a connection to the farming community; and that all of its team have either worked with farming communities directly or have grown up in rural areas themselves.

Virtual Psychologist staff work closely with Aussie Helpers to support remote drought affected farmers who may be struggling with mental health issues and can be called upon night or day to provide psychological support or just a friendly ear.

Issues such as anxiety, depression, suicide, alcohol and drugs, domestic violence, grief and loss, relationship breakdowns, anger, parenting, financial worries and family conflict are all covered by the program.

Photo credit: Australian Red Cross/Amelia Wong