With farmers struggling around him, and a community recovering from suicides, Barry Large enlisted a big sporting name to topple the toughest wicket of all.
Grain Producers Australia will offer a mental health support program for the first time as farmers struggle with the increased stress of record-high input costs.
Western Australian grain farmer Barry Large said he was sitting around the dinner table with friends not long ago when he realised there were people in his community who needed support.
“I was looking around the table and two people at the table I knew had had a tough time recently (in regards to mental health),” he said.
“Over the next few days I was talking to my harvest team and I realised there were a couple of other people within 100 kilometres of me who were also struggling,” Mr Large said.
The realisation came at a time when farming communities near Mr Large’s town of Miling were recovering from a number of recent suicides.
Mr Large, who is also chairman of Grain Producers Australia, decided he needed to do something.
"When someone takes their life in a small community, “it’s a tragedy”, Mr Large said.
“It just affects everyone. The community is the family,” he said.
While mental health issues in rural and regional areas were nothing new, Mr Large said there were additional factors putting farmers under pressure this year.
Farmers were spending double, or in some cases triple what they spent on inputs last year, and if a crop failed or didn’t perform well, they were at risk of losing a lot of money, he said.
“There’s a lot riding on yields this year,” Mr Large said. “At the moment we’re enjoying relatively good rainfall on the back of a good season. But with that also comes rising costs to growers. There’s pressure on everyone to make sure they’re making good business decisions,” he said.
This week GPA launched its inaugural Mate’s Mental Health program, which will link farmers to mental health support services.
Cricketing legend Brad Hogg has been announced as the ambassador of the program, and will tour field days across Victoria with GPA this year.
Mr Hogg, who is from a West Australian wheatbelt farming family, said he has personally been affected by mental health issues, and he hoped sharing his story with others would make them feel more comfortable to speak openly about mental health issues.
“Growing up in a farming community and having many friends and family still involved in agriculture, I’m proud to be working with GPA on this initiative, to share these important messages,” he said.
“This is a great way to help others recognise the signs they need to look out for with friends or family who might be struggling, and encourage them to reach out for help when needed.
“We want people to know that they’re never alone, and that help is always a phone call away if they need it. It’s all about starting conversations that will make a positive change and help save lives,” Mr Hogg said.
Lifeline WA chief executive Lorna MacGregor said despite significantly higher suicide rates among men, they were less likely to reach out for help, with only 27 per cent of WA callers to Lifeline’s 13 11 14 helpline being male.
If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.