Opinion: Never be too tough to speak up

“I just don’t know how I am meant to keep going,” a Central NSW sheep farmer shared during an emotional conversation recently. “I have battled so hard to recover from fires, then flood and now low stock prices and dry conditions. I am physically, emotionally and financially exhausted.”  

The reality is it’s a conversation being had with people across regional Australia in the last few months as the country faces another El Nino, plummeting livestock prices, cost of living and in recent days, bushfires and floods.  

As is resilience. Stick with me…being all too aware it’s widely resented as an over-used catch phrase attached to those living in the regions and enduring tough times.  

Yet the ability to cope and adapt to life challenges preserves our wellbeing, and those around us. It’s the ability to stop, reassess and implement simple strategies that can help us bounce back from setbacks, regain control, and cope through the tough times. 

A lesson learned from personal experience when bullied at secondary school. I put up with it, didn’t talk about it, didn’t seek help, with the belief it was out of my control. It became worse, as did the impact on my resilience, wellbeing and ultimately my education and identity.  

In searching for who I was, I moved to the country, becoming a farm hand and eventually a dairy farmer after buying my own farm. Everything was looking positive – a cracking season and abundant grass to feed the cows. Then the floods arrived, followed by drought, low commodity prices and high interest rates. The future was ruined, or so I thought.  

Combined with reluctance to talk and seek help, the toll on one’s mental health is inevitable and you can find yourself in a very dark place. For me it was a dark afternoon lying on the dairy floor. This was what I now reflect on as my ‘Two Feet of Perspective’ – do I continue to spiral out of control and end it all or do I choose to become better. I chose the latter and it’s what drives me today. 

Armed with a toolbox of strategies, I now share these with others across the country during my travels for speaking engagements. It’s a privilege having people sharing their stories yet indicative that practical support is needed. With October being Mental Health Month, it’s fitting to share some strategies more broadly in hope it reaches those who need it.  

  • Start with developing strong support networks, stay connected to your community and engage in activities you enjoy.  
  • Focus on situations you can control rather than those you can’t.  
  • Work out what your superpower is. Being real and being my true self is mine, and to use whenever things get tough. What’s yours?  
  • Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it. Talk about your problems and accept support when it’s offered to you. #not2TUF2speakup You’re never truly alone. 
  • Think about who inspires you. Who are they and why do you find them inspirational? They may be a friend, another person in your community, a parent or a prominent sporting figure. Whoever they are, in difficult times, take a page from their book. 
  • Stand up for yourself in whatever situation you find yourself in. If you don’t feel strong enough to do that, ask for support. 
  • Look after your health and physical wellbeing and get enough sleep; these help enormously with overcoming challenging situations and coping mechanisms. 
  • Construct an ‘Unbreakable Wheel of Wellbeing’ by evaluating and grading your wellbeing domains (mental, physical, social, financial, relationships, connection, social, vocational, environmental etc) on a scale of one to five. You’ll know what areas of your life to prioritise to be able to keep rolling forward. 

Always remember that the good, the bad and the ugly that life dishes out makes us who we are today. There’s a place for everyone in this world. Be the real you and you’ll find your place. Be Unbreakable. 

In times of crisis and or uncertainty, when you feel like a conversation is too big for family or friends alone, connect with a trusted health professional like your GP or services like Lifeline 13 11 14, TIACS (by calling or texting 0488 846 988 Mon-Fri 8am-10pm AEST) or the many other local and government support services. 

Warren Davies aka The Unbreakable Farmer from Kyabram is one of Australia’s leading rural mental health speakers. He has also been a mentor with the Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program delivered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. Learn more about Warren’s story by tuning into an interview with the ARLF https://bit.ly/3QjZGN8.

Reach out to Warren via email, on LinkedIn or call 0448 815 001.

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