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Farmer Health and Wellbeing

Agriculture is a volatile industry resulting in excessive levels of prolonged stress and anxiety for primary producers and their families. Indirectly, farm support personnel and farming communities can also be negatively impacted. 

Prolonged exposure to stressors, coupled with rurality, can result in reduced physical, social and emotional wellbeing, increased risk of suicide and poorer health outcomes for individuals working and in the agriculture industry.

Traditional facility based health service provision does not met the needs of this vulnerable population group and therefore intervention is rarely sought.

In 2016 South West Primary Care Partnership was funded by State Government, initially in response to the dairy milk downturn crisis and later the St Patrick Day bushfire to provide backbone support to both South West Healthcare & Colac Area Health in the delivery of a Farmer Support Outreach Program.

The two key objectives of the Farmer Health Network were to;

  1. Strengthen links between the health sector, agriculture industry and community to be better able to respond and support farmers in times of adversity
  2. Build resilient farming communities with improved health and wellbeing outcomes

Since 2016 the Farmer Support Outreach Program has achieved the following outcomes;

  • Provision of mental health/psychosocial counselling to >600 farming families
  • Provision of material aid to >500 farming families
  • Undertaken >65 community engagement activities
  • Provision of Occasional Counselling training to >100 industry support personnel
  • Presentations at industry forums, farmer discussion groups
  • Attendance and informal education of farmers at industry networking events
  • 40% increase in partnership participation
  • Development of a digital story to highlight the diverse challenges faced by those working in and supporting the industry and providing an oversight of how the outreach program has positively impacted farmers, based on lived experience.
  • Evaluation of the outreach service delivery model and through adopting a co-design methodology approach refined the model to ensure a service offering that is sustainable, relevant and scalable should funding be extended.

Numerous agencies are providing a range of resources including WestVic Dairy like this report

Farmer Support Outreach Program – FAQ

1. What is the Farmer Support Outreach Program?

The stress that everyday life can bring may interfere with the normal coping skills people may have.

The Farmer Support Outreach Program is a program designed to offer farming families and communities a level of support and consultation to assist individuals to manage times of situational distress.

2. Who provides this service?

The Farmer Support Outreach Program is a joint initiative coordinated by South West Primary Care Partnership and delivered by Colac Area Health & South West Healthcare.

3. Who is eligible to receive the service?

Any agricultural worker +/- family member or agricultural support worker residing in either Glenelg, Southern Grampians, Moyne or Corangamite Shires

4. What types of support services are available?

Each case is unique therefore the support worker will conduct an initial assessment to determine the needs of the individual and prioritise intervention based on the level of urgency for each identified need.

Types of intervention may include:

Mental health +/- psychosocial counselling

Emergency relief response

Care Coordination

Community engagement activities

Capacity building activities

5. Is there a cost?

The Farmer Support Outreach Program is a free service therefore no charges apply to receive this service.

6. How do I access this service?

No referral is needed you can refer yourself or speak to our counsellors about someone you are concerned about by ringing any of the following contact numbers;

South West Healthcare                                  Colac Area Health

55644269                                                             552325244

0468571874 (Garry)                                       0447321599 (Ann-Marie)

7. Where is the service delivered?

The Farmer Support Outreach Program is delivered on farm to ensure there are no barriers e.g. travel, time, cost etc. that impact your ability to participate in the program.

A counsellor will make contact to make a meeting time that will suit you.

8. Is the information shared as part of the consultation process confidential?

Any information shared between the client and care provider will always remain confidential information. If additional care providers are required to support the individual through the care delivery process, consent to share confidential information will be sought prior the referral being initiated?