Farmsafe News

Mental Health & ‘Resilience’

Tuesday 21st July, 2020


The last 12 months have been, to put it bluntly, a tough year. Drought, bushfires, floods, global pandemic…
A word that has been tossed around a lot over the last few months is ‘resilience’. When referring to ‘resilience’, the connotation is often ‘toughness’.

Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from a challenge. And it’s easy to understand why we often talk about
human resilience in the face of natural disasters.

But it seems that resilient people are often painted as people who just ‘brush it off’ or ‘get back up again’ easily. They
aren’t. And that idea is killing us. Literally.

Farmer suicide is on the rise and we don’t even have the stats yet to analyse the effects of the recent disasters. In the face
of continued adversity, there is no doubting that our ‘resilience’ has been worn down.

A March 2017 research report from the Rural Flying Doctors states the following;

“Some researchers have suggested that the ‘rural masculinist paradigm’, whereby rural males are ‘made’ to be physically
and emotionally tough and strong and are able to solve any problem as ‘no obstacle can beat them’, has been normalised,
even though it is not an accurate representation of rural men (Kõlves et al., 2012). “The suicidal vulnerabilities attached to
the rural masculinist paradigm are suicide risk factors which research has more uniquely linked to farmers,” such as the
unrelenting workload associated with running a farm, difficult financial and living conditions, and a perceived lack of
control over factors linked with success, such as weather or government policy (Kõlves et al., 2012, p. 12). Such factors can
contribute to feelings of powerlessness amongst farmers, and suicide may be perceived as the action required to solve the
negative emotions (Kõlves et al., 2012).”

That is a terrifying statement. Farmers are killing themselves because they have been culturally shamed into believing that
it is a better action than showing vulnerability.

We need to stop expecting farmers to just ‘brush it off’ or ‘pick themselves back up’, even if they are the toughest people
we know.

What we need is real rural mental health assistance for farmers and their families.

We need individual coping strategies; not a one size fits all approach. There is no denying times are tough in the city, but
the pressures of urban dwelling are different to the pressures of country life.

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