Study to look at farmers' mental health

Study to look at farmers' mental health

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When it comes to Western Australian farmers: What are the main challenges they face and what strategies do they use to cope?

When it comes to Western Australian farmers: What are the main challenges they face and what strategies do they use to cope?

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"I wondered, 'well what are WA farmers experiencing?'"

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LIFE on the land can be fulfilling and rewarding for many Australians, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges.

So when it comes to Western Australian farmers: What are the main challenges they face and what strategies do they use to cope?

Those are the questions Curtin University's Micaela Riethmuller is asking men and women working in the State's agricultural sector.

As part of her psychology PhD, Ms Riethmuller is conducting a WA Farmers' Mental Health and Wellbeing Study, under the supervision of Dr Peta Dzidic, Dr Elizabeth Newnham and Professor Peter McEvoy.

She decided to focus her study specifically on WA farmer's mental health, after identifying a gap in research.

"When I researched farmer's mental health initially, most of the research I came across was conducted in the Eastern States with drought and bushfires," Ms Riethmuller said.

"I wondered, 'well what are WA farmers experiencing?'

"Are they also experiencing drought? Or are there other issues that have been missed?

"I couldn't find anything, so that's why I decided to focus on WA specifically and narrow it down."

Growing up in the Wheatbelt at Merredin, Ms Riethmuller has always had strong ties with farming.

Both of her parent's families have farming backgrounds and her father works as an agricultural engineer.

She knew farmers had a tough job, working long hours with high periods of stress and having to tackle other issues, which are out of their control.

But Ms Riethmuller wanted to know how they coped and what services were actually available to them.

Last month, she put a call out on social media to WA farmers, asking for help with her study.

She said already she had some great interviews and she would be grateful to hear from more farmers.

The study involves 45 to 60 minute interviews via video, phone or face-to-face where Ms Riethmuller asks participants about their experiences and use of mental health services.

She said she also hoped to chat to agricultural service providers and organisations, who work with farmers, to get both perspectives.

"I hope to identify health coping strategies, strong community factors and opportunities to improve mental health care services for farmers and their families," she said.

Participants can be of any gender, living and working in WA, over the age of 18 years.

To take part or learn more about the study email micaela.riethmuller@postgrad.curtin.edu.au, phone 0478 514 016, message WA Farmers' Mental Health and Wellbeing Study on Facebook or contact @FarmerWellbeing on Twitter.

  • If you or someone you know needs help contact BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636, RuralLink 1800 552 002, Rural Financial Counselling Service of WA 1800 612 004 or Lifeline 13 11 14.
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