“No farmers – no food”: Farmers and mental illness

15 February 2013

The vulnerability of male farmers doesn’t often make front page news, but it’s something that Australians should be aware of. Why should we care? For one thing, as the saying goes: “No farmers – no food”. We depend on them for much of what we eat.

Male farmers experience high levels of job-related stress, high rates of suicide and they have low rates of seeking professional help. They are generally stoical and self-sufficient, sometimes preferring alcohol or drug overuse to seeking out someone to talk to about their emotional problems.

Philippe Roy and his co-authors examine this issue in the latest Australian Journal of Rural Health (AJRH). The authors state that male farmers’ mental health disorders, many of which can lead to suicide, need targeted suicide prevention programs.

There are some in our society who won’t be eating much of that food produced by our farmers: those with eating disorders. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder. Those who suffer need specialist management support but rural and regional areas have restricted access to such support because of logistical issues like the distances involved.

Julie McCormack and others present original research about this in their AJRH paper ‘A hub and spokes approach to building community capacity for eating disorders in rural Western Australia’. Their study provides evidence that community-based training on eating disorders improves regional capacity to manage local eating disorders.

Many in rural areas experience poorer access to specialist services in education, commerce, communications and health. In his Editorial in the same issue of AJRH, David Perkins examines the differences between metropolitan research and rurally-based research. He outlines the benefits of smaller scale living and explains why the rurally-based researcher could actually be well-placed to address the gap between theory and practice.

These and other articles and research reports are available in the latest edition of The Australian Journal of Rural Health on www.ruralhealth.org.au or on the website of the AJRH’s publisher, Wiley-Blackwell: wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/AJR

Media Enquiries: 

Peter Brown, Manager, AJRH: 02 6285 4660