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Preventing farmer suicide

In Australia, suicide rates among farmers are alarmingly high. We supported a three-year, nationally funded research project to understand the complexities of farmer distress, and to find out what local supports farmers need.

Why is this important?

Research shows that the suicide rate among farmers in Australia is up to 94 per cent higher than non-farmers and that on average, one farmer dies by suicide every 10 days (National Rural Health Alliance, 2021).

Risk factors such as social isolation, long work hours, weather extremes, financial pressures, intergenerational issues, access to lethal means and limited access to services have been repeatedly identified as just some of the drivers of farmer suicidality.

What was found

We supported the Tailoring Suicide Prevention Strategies to Men in Farming research project, that interviewed over 50 farmers in regional areas of NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

The key findings were that the men:

  • had low awareness of the various pathways to mental health and suicide prevention support in their communities
  • expressed a clear preference for outreach support services delivered on farm
  • valued peer support for mental health and wellbeing
  • wanted more opportunities for social connection and wellbeing
  • recommended embedding mental health initiatives into agriculturally-based events, groups and/or businesses
  • had mixed responses to information communication technology (ICT) based services.

The key findings from professional stakeholders were:

  • professional mental health services are often not meeting the needs of men in farming
  • outreach services and peer support are considered best practice for the delivery of support to men in farming
  • mental health support for men in farming needs to be embedded in farm workplaces and extended through agricultural organisations, groups and events.

What was done

An outcome of the Men in Farming report, was the launch of a free wellbeing suicide prevention tool, Taking Stock.

Taking Stock is a multimedia website that has been designed by and for Australian farmers, to help them tackle the everyday struggles of living on the land.

The website helps farmers break down barriers for seeking help and gives information about community-based support services, as well as offering a range of resources that communities can download and use or adapt.

It also helps farmers recognise that the distress, mental ill-health and/or suicide thoughts they may have experienced are also experienced by other farmers, helping them understand that they are not alone.

Taking Stock shares the stories and lived experiences of farmers and explains their journeys from different perspectives.

The site hosts multiple resources including films, interviews and podcasts of farmer experiences, how to set up a local suicide prevention group, and how to connect and engage with communities for early approaches to suicide prevention.

How does this support reform? 

The new website and resources for farmers align with the World Health Organisation’s recommendations to adopt a whole-of-community strategy for suicide prevention

Place-based suicide prevention strategies are also central to Australia’s national response to suicide.

The project and associated web resources support the achievement of the priorities outlined in the Every Life suicide prevention plan, including:

  • prioritising suicide prevention for men
  • building mentally health workplaces, and
  • building inclusive, resilient communities.