Recently, during Farm Safety Week, farmers were being urged to consider the impact of fatigue on the risk of injury at work. Farming can be physically demanding and the environments we work in are challenging.
Farmsafe Australia says strategies such as scheduling rest periods, carrying water and snacks, and speaking up to ask for help are important strategies for dealing with fatigue. It’s also important to realistically assess the risk in each particular situation in order to create a safer environment.
But fatigue is more than just weary muscles and needing a good night’s sleep. Together with the farming life that we love, comes pressures and responsibilities that can build up.
We wear with pride our reputation of being tough, independent operators who can rise to any challenge, often by ourselves. We are soil scientists, agronomists, hydrologists, accountants, marketers, meteorologists, mechanics and the list goes on.
But when you add in the reluctance of many men to talk about feelings or personal issues, even with friends and family, the escalation of mental fatigue can be tragic.
My community has recently lost a friend and relative to suicide. There is a hole in our networks now along with questions and hurt.
We don’t know why this person took that step, but we can hopefully use our pain to heighten our awareness about ourselves and those around us.
There is help available if you are concerned for yourself or for a friend or family member. Just as FarmSafe advises seeking help with physical tasks that could become unsafe, seeking help with mental fatigue and stress is also important.
A starting point can be a call to an organisation like Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978.
If you don’t feel like a phone call, www.areyouboggedmate.com.au is specifically about rural men and Rural Health Connect can link people in regional communities with professionals. The National Farmers’ Federation also has an index of rural mental health resources on www.farmhub.org.au/mental-health
If that all seems remote, look local perhaps by asking a GP.
An example of a local service addressing the issue is CORES, Community Response to Eliminating Suicide. CORES is voluntarily supported in my region of the Burdekin by sugarcane growers through their Wilmar cane pay invoices, but the organisation operates in 27 communities. It is a not-for-profit organisation which runs intervention training days in the community. You can find it on Facebook as CORESQueensland.
I guess my message is that no one is alone in farming, even if it may feel that way sitting in a tractor. We have our industry organisations, like CANEGROWERS, neighbours and friends who can help. Please remember they are around us if we feel we are struggling.