REAL AUSTRALIA

Fun job of rural journalism can have serious days, too

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by ACM's Glove Box Guide to Mental Health editor, Robyn Ainsworth.

Admitting to having mental ill health is a mark of strength, not weakness. Photo: Shutterstock

Admitting to having mental ill health is a mark of strength, not weakness. Photo: Shutterstock

Getting my boots dirty is a major part of life as a rural journalist as I attend machinery field days, cattle sales or head out "on farm" to chat to old mate.

Some jobs are little easier than others. Most are downright good fun.

Every year there comes a time when good fun takes a back seat and I tackle the more serious issue of mental health.

As editor of The Land's award-winning Glove Box Guide To Mental Health for five of its eight editions, I consider myself a mental health advocate.

I try to find ways to weave positive mental wellbeing messages into conversations with farmers, livestock agents, colleagues, friends and family.

I ask the most basic of questions: "Are you ok?" I add in a line or two about my observations: "You seem a bit flat/down/stressed/upset."

Oliver Liyou is a veterinarian. It comes with pressures. He's shared his story with the Glove Box Guide to Mental Health.

Oliver Liyou is a veterinarian. It comes with pressures. He's shared his story with the Glove Box Guide to Mental Health.

Often people will say they are fine; other times not. I am never surprised by the answer, because it's OK not to be OK.

I am heartened by the willingness of people these days to admit to having mental ill health. It's a mark of strength, not weakness.

People wouldn't live with a broken arm and not seek treatment. The same goes for mental ill health.

I am grateful to the countless number of people who have shared their lived experiences with the Glove Box Guide over the years.

ON THE TOOLS: Robyn Ainsworth chats to old mate at Wodonga Weaner Sales.

ON THE TOOLS: Robyn Ainsworth chats to old mate at Wodonga Weaner Sales.

Tears have been shared as I talked to bereaved loved ones or trauma survivors.

It takes a lot of mental energy to put together such a guide and this year I shared the honour with the team of journalists from The Land.

It's no secret the state of NSW is in the grip of drought and while the grass is a tad greener down south, farmers and other rural workers are still having to make some pretty tough decisions.

So it's timely that The Land launches its eighth edition of the Glove Box Guide this week, in collaboration with the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, at the start of Mental Health Month.

The theme of this year's guide is Journey Through Change - At Home, At Work, In the Community, as well as Where To Get Help.

MEDAL: RAMHP program manager Tessa Caton, Robyn Ainsworth and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt at the Mental Health Service Awards in Brisbane where the guide won TheMHS Medal.

MEDAL: RAMHP program manager Tessa Caton, Robyn Ainsworth and Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt at the Mental Health Service Awards in Brisbane where the guide won TheMHS Medal.

It is packed full of useful information on suicide prevention, ways to improve and maintain mental wellbeing, and personal stories of lived experience.

It features plenty of advice on managing stress, decision-making, finding support networks, and pathways to mental wellbeing, as well as a useful section on help services and emergency contacts.

This year's guide tells personal stories such as that of an inspiring young couple who have overcome the adversity of prolonged drought by selling their beef product direct to consumers; first responders from the Royal Flying Doctor Service and NSW Ambulance, and a horse veterinarian.

The informative guide won the prestigious Mental Health Services Medal in September, a PANPA marketing award for best cause-related initiative in 2017, and was a finalist in the News Media Awards this year.

Some jobs may be a little easier than others. This one is rewarding in itself.

  • Lifeline: 131 114. NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511. Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467. In an emergency, always call 000.

Robyn Ainsworth

Senior journalist, ACM national agricultural features

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