SEASONAL conditions are far from ideal in the northern Wheatbelt, but that didn’t stop more than 130 women from across the region gathering in Dalwallinu last week for the Liebe Group’s 20th annual Women’s Field Day.
The event celebrated the role of women in the agricultural industry and saw a range of guest speakers cover topics from grain marketing, to time management and entrepreneurship.
With the dry seasonal conditions fresh in the minds of many in attendance, mental health was a key focus of the event.
Former Hockeyroo and RUOK ambassador Ashleigh Nelson shared her paddock to pitch experience, from growing up in the Great Southern town of Wagin to representing Australia at the 2012 London Olympics.
Ashleigh played more than 200 games for the Australian women’s hockey team and won two Commonwealth Games gold medals.
Despite a decorated career the former Hockeyroo said she had endured several setbacks, including a career-ending knee injury she suffered just three months before the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Ashleigh highlighted the importance of adaptability in times of adversity and the benefits of a strong support network.
“One hundred days before the Rio Olympics I tore my ACL on my right knee, that’s how quickly things can change,” Ashleigh said.
“Don’t get me wrong I was very upset, it hurt a lot, I was angry and I was very disappointed because I’d been training so long for this second Olympics.
“I was able to gain perspective, I was aware of my thought processes and I had also set myself up for having great support, so my whole world didn’t collapse.
“Your mindset and ability to adapt to change is just so crucial, not only in success in your chosen field but also for happiness long term.”
As an ambassador for suicide prevention and mental health advocacy group RUOK, Ashleigh highlighted the importance of asking for help in times of need.
“I actually consulted in the people that were around me, I think before I was a little bit too proud to ask for help,” she said.
“I had to set realistic goals to keep me motivated and as soon as I utilised the people around me, set realistic goals that I could achieve, and slowly worked my way up, then the results spoke for themselves.
“I encourage you to analyse, formulate a plan and also acknowledge your small wins along the way to achieving your goal and if you don’t reach it, I do believe there is a silver lining.
“You learn from it, you live with it and also I think you grow as a person.”
This sentiment was echoed by the Regional Men’s Health Initiative’s Owen Catto who also spoke.
The former farmer sold his Morawa property 12 years ago and has been working to educate rural and regional men and their families on the importance of men’s wellbeing and health for the past decade.
Owen said face-to-face interaction was essential for effective communication, particularly in overcoming challenges such as this year’s complex growing season.
“We need to watch for changes in environment and culture and I’m stating the obvious one out there at the minute,” Owen said.
“It’s tough out there for blokes and for ladies and that social connection is really important, to have a chat about some of the things we might not normally talk about.”
Owen addressed the significant differences in male and female communication patterns, and encouraged women in the crowd to closely monitor the mental state of the men in their lives.
“Women think and speak in a narrative way, men speak and think in dot points, there is a big difference,” he said.
“Given the season and the circumstances, people talk about blokes self medicating.
“In the work that we do, the two things that we see blokes doing to self medicate is working harder, and ladies might find blokes actually talk less.”
He said acknowledging gender differences was a key step in achieving positive communication with men.
“It’s is a bit of a myth that we don’t talk, we just talk differently, we talk less, and we don’t talk about our emotional context as a general rule and that’s one of the biggest differences,” he said.
“Give a bloke a safe place or build rapport, he will talk.”
For more information on the Regional Men’s Health Initiative go to regionalmenshealth.org.au and for the RUOK charity go to regionalmenshealth.org.au