A Riverina entrepreneur is expanding her campaign to fight the loneliness of the land.
Ginny Stevens started Active Farmers from her Mangoplah home two years ago, bringing farmers and community members together through group fitness. The aim was twofold: To build stronger community ties through physical activity and as a result, combat depression and anxiety.
“Being physically active and socialising are two things that naturally improve mental health without people realising it,” Mrs Stevens said.
“Farmers are so isolated to start with, they’re not as active as they once were and there are a lot of stresses that go with it.
“Getting off the farm to do some exercise and have fun is so good for them, but we’ve also got a nutritionist, a mindfulness specialist, and a financial consultant that can all be proactive towards mental health.”
Delta Agribusiness also recently came alongside Mrs Stevens and they were expanding to as many country towns as possible.
“We’ve got 13 towns in operation and another four confirmed to start by the end of the year,” she said.
“There are five people completing their training certificates now and probably another 10 or 12 interested in starting groups.
“There’s been a very positive uptake of services and some existing trainers have joined the network.”
Money worries and a culture of “toughing it out” among farmers was considered one of the big drivers of mental health challenges in rural areas, which led financial consultant Tony Hudson to offer community workshops across the region.
In addition to the face-to-face help, Active Farmers had also partnered with online mental health service provider Dokotela, which Mrs Stevens said could help even more people get vital help.
“The online platform can potentially break down a lot of roadblocks,” she said. “People might not want be seen at the GP or think that they don’t have enough time to leave the farm, it’s a pretty exciting addition.”
For more information about the program, visit www.activefarmers.com.au.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, call one of the following numbers:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- BeyondBlue: 1300 22 46 36
- MensLine: 1300 789 978