Podcast highlights mental anguish in the bush

John Harper discussing mental health issues with Julie Andreazza on her family farm near Willbriggie. Photo: Photography by Erin Johnson for room3.com.au
John Harper discussing mental health issues with Julie Andreazza on her family farm near Willbriggie. Photo: Photography by Erin Johnson for room3.com.au

As rural communities face erratic environmental conditions, social isolation and economic hardship, a new podcast hopes to promote mental wellbeing and resilience in the bush.

The series of six episodes which has been titled Mate Helping Mate features stories of farmers, business owners and families who live in remote and regional Australia and focuses on their individual strategies to promote resilience.

Hosted by John Harper from Stockinbingal, and recorded on location the series highlights the distinct experiences of individuals as they overcome their personal issues.

Mr Harper has battle with 'the black dog', so is well aware of the mental anguish and hopes to build confidence in encouraging others to reach out for help.

"Nearly everyone I know seems to be getting whacked around with their mental health in some way or another - but nobody's talking openly about it," he said.

"It's time we have a yarn about how bloody tough it can be out in the bush and how we can help ourselves and our mates."

Mr Harper will also be talking to qualified experts about the needs, services and strategies that are unique to improving mental wellbeing in remote communities.

People living and working in remote communities face a range of location-specific challenges, including the stress of financial dependence on the land, climate change and social isolation.

Each may exacerbate depression and anxiety and especially if there are barriers like distance to easy access of health care.

"The aim of Mate Helping Mate is to reduce the perceived stigma associated with seeking help, promote strategies that support mental resilience and increase presentation to mental health services," Mr Harper said.

"I hope this podcast goes some way towards highlighting how mental health is everybody's business in the bush."

Among those farmers featured is Julie Andreazza, who operates an irrigation farm near Willbriggie with her husband Glen.

Growing a variety of irrigated crops including a specialist variety of soft wheat which is a key ingredient for Arnott's biscuits Tim Tams and Scotch Finger they had been the 2018 NSW Farmer of the Year, recognised for the innovative attention to agricultural production.

The interview of Mrs Andreazza is Episode 3 - Spot the signs: look, listen, reach out.

  • What are the clues to look for if you think a mate is struggling with their mental health? If you spot them, what should you do? John speaks with irrigation farmer Julie Andreazza about the incredible support she received from her husband and community when she went through a hard time, along with counsellor David Post from ROC - Rural Outreach Counselling , who has some top-notch advice for helping others.

Speaking about her part Mrs Andreazza said the Podcast is an awesome resource for rural communities and she congratulated John and his team for doing such a professional job.

"I think we have to keep up with technology and social media and need to use whatever medium possible to get the message out there," she said.

"It's so important to be able to communicate with people no matter where they are and Podcasts are obviously a popular medium that is targeting people who might not have the courage to ask for help, but need support and this offers the privacy to do that."

Mrs Andreazza said she has learnt that it is so important to talk and ask for help, but not everyone has the courage to do that.

"So if I can share my story and help someone out there who might be struggling then that is a good day," she said.

"It has happened to me so many times and I know we are all the same, sometimes we just need to hear another person's story to realise that there is help out there, if we just have the courage to ask.

"I hope my story can help someone because every life is important and everyone needs help sometimes."

The Mate Helping Mate Podcast is being launched at 6pm on 19 February 2020 at Farmlink Temora where a panel of speakers from the podcast will be speaking.

It is a must-listen for everybody, especially those outside the 'big smoke'.

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