Are you right, mate?

Community stories: 30 January 2018

The milk pricing crisis in south west Victoria affected many local dairy farmers and community members. In agriculture industries, rural isolation can add to poor mental health issues, especially as farming becomes more mechanised.

In 2016, South West Healthcare received a grant for $3,635 from the Gardiner Dairy Foundation Working in Dairy Communities Small Grants program to support the local dairy farming community by offering Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training and accreditation.

The uptake exceeded expectations – and the MHFA training was delivered to 133 individuals over the space of seven months.

The local people who attended MHFA training sessions represented a community-wide spread – from teachers to disability support workers; farming field officers to spouses of dairy farmers; general community members to industry relevant company individuals.

The ‘Are You Right Mate?’ event was held at the Lismore football clubrooms, with guest speaker Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico headlining the night. The aim of the night was to invite people, in particular men, from the local communities to come together in a social setting and look out for themselves and the communities they support. They could meet Dipper, have a chat and a free BBQ with their mates.

Over 120 local men attend the event and the informal environment was a great way to highlight that it is okay to not be okay, and how important it is to look out for one another.

At the conclusion of the Mental Health First Aid course, 100% of participants gave feedback that they now had confidence in their ability to recognise and respond to people who were experiencing mental health distress or crisis. Many participants also reported that they felt confident that they could discuss mental health with other people in their community.

Overall, the positive feedback from MHFA training participants indicated that more MHFA training, for both youth and adults, is wanted by the community. There were even 40 people on a waitlist to attend the training  This is a great sign that rural people are ready and willing to talk about mental health, and to support their mates.