A new social media initiative aims to spread positive mental health and wellbeing-related messages via people who locals know and trust, starting in the Riverland.
Vocal Locals, an initiative of Loxton locals and the successful online farmer wellbeing program ifarmwell, will see 10 prominent Loxton community members participate in the program in coming months.
Of these 10 Vocal Locals, at least half will be farmers.
They will complete the free, evidence-based, online ifarmwell modules and a face-to-face mental health workshop on June 17, that Loxton community members will be welcome to join.
Vocal Locals will also participate in weekly coaching sessions to support them with identifying and progressing their own wellbeing-related goals, over an eight-week period.
In addition, Vocal Locals will post on social media about how they are investing in their own wellbeing and encourage others to do the same.
ifarmwell founder Dr Kate Gunn said the project reinforces the messages of the popular 'Kick Off Ya Boots' production written by Loxton graingrower John Gladigau, who is also involved in Vocal Locals.
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"Kick Off Ya Boots was all about celebrating rural life, exploring challenges commonly faced by farming families such as succession planning, and demonstrating practical ways that farmers can effectively manage in difficult circumstances," Dr Gunn said.
"Vocal Locals will build on that by continuing the conversation, strengthening social connection and showing others the value of taking time to look after their own wellbeing."
Dr Gunn said research by the ifarmwell team in University of SA's Department of Rural Health highlighted that farmers tend to prioritise looking after their farms over looking after themselves.
They can also be hesitant about engaging with mental health services which are perceived as not understanding the unique challenges farmers face, she said.
Normalising conversations about mental health and demonstrating the importance of investing time in maintaining wellbeing will help break down stigma and stoicism that is characteristic of Australian farmers.- Dr KATE GUNN
"Importantly, this research has also indicated that rural community members are willing to consult known local community members and to engage in health and wellbeing initiatives that they perceive as culturally appropriate," she said.
"Normalising conversations about mental health and demonstrating the importance of investing time in maintaining wellbeing will help break down stigma and stoicism that is characteristic of Australian farmers and can make it difficult for them to invest in themselves, and to use mental health services.
"We are also hoping that Vocal Locals will help to open up conversations on social media that deepen and strengthen social support networks within the community, and empower Loxton locals to help each other with maintaining or improving their wellbeing."
Mr Gladigau will serve as the Vocal Locals local coordinator, while Tanya Lehmann will be the Vocal Locals wellbeing coach.
Dr Chloe Fletcher and Dale Woolford are key members of the team, along with representatives from Mallee Sustainable Farming, Primary Producers SA and Grain Producers SA.
The project is supported through the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR), through funding from the federal government's Future Drought Fund.
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