Each year the agricultural sector contributes approximately $60 billion to the Australian economy, but farming remains one of Australia’s most physically and psychologically hazardous occupations.
While farmers are generally very good problem solvers, much of their stress is caused by things beyond their control like the weather.
To help farmers cope effectively with these sorts of challenges, a new online resource ifarmwell.com.au has been developed by a team of farmers, researchers and clinicians, led by the University of South Australia’s Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist Dr Kate Fennell, in conjunction with the NAB Foundation, the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health, the Freemasons Foundation, the University of Adelaide, the National Centre for Farmer Health and Livestock SA.
The research team, which also includes Associate Professor Jim Dollman, Professor Deborah Turnbull, Dr Andrew Vincent, Professor Susan Brumby, Dr Camille Short, Alison Barrett and Nathan Harrison, has worked closely with the farming community on the design of the website, which steps users through a series of modules, to learn new ways of coping with the types of stress that farmers commonly struggle with.
Dr Fennell says ifarmwell is now available online, and the research team is looking for 60 farmers from across the country, to take part in the next stage of development.
“We are looking for farmers who can help trial the ifarmwell resource and provide feedback. We plan to measure its ease of use and helpfulness and make adjustments if necessary,” she says.
“The ifarmwell website aims to give farmers extra coping skills, practical tips and provide feedback on their level of wellbeing as well as easy to use tips on seeking professional mental health help.
“To keep farmers engaged ifarmwell also uses short videos, cartoons, jokes and text message reminders,” Dr Fennell says.
To be eligible to participate in the trial and assist with this important research, participants must be active in a farming or pastoral enterprise in Australia, be 18 years of age or older and have access to the internet and a mobile phone.
Participants who go through all five of the modules and complete the questionnaires before and after, will have the option of being sent a $100 voucher in appreciation of their time and internet-related expenses.
Each module takes about 30 minutes to complete with a new module available each fortnight, giving users time to practise skills before learning new ones. It has been designed to be user-friendly across multiple devices (desktop computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices).
The National Australia Bank (NAB) Foundation committed $100,000 to the project – one of seven projects supported through the bank’s 2016 grants program.
NAB’s Head of Agribusiness Development Garry Gale says the new resource would provide another way to support farmers through the cycles.
“We support our customers through the good times, and importantly, in more volatile times and we are acutely aware of the challenges and unpredictability of life on the land,” Gale says
“Our Agribusiness team understands the cyclical nature of agriculture and through partnerships and new innovative resources like this, we are committed to being there for our farmers.”
Once the evaluation and revision process is complete, ifarmwell will be made available to anyone who wants to use it.