Farmers weather emotional storms
MANY Queensland farmers experienced severe weather-related problems early in 2013. Farms were damaged, infrastructure destroyed and in some cases, properties were rendered unfit to continue as a farming unit.
The Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation conducted a series of meetings throughout the state, at which Atherton-based psychologist Lex Peterson spoke to farmers about ways to cope with the loss and damage, as well as having to sell the farm (due to low prices or other issues).
If a farmer did not accept or receive community support (BlazeAid, Salvation Army etc) they tended to burn out and suffer more mental problems.
Mr Peterson said just because the floods had gone did not mean the problems were lessened or gone.
"It does not matter whether the decision has been made to stay or leave the farm, there is still a huge mental burden bearing down," he said.
Mr Peterson said there were four basic issues that could help to make getting over disaster problems easier.
"Farms are 'easy' enough to cope with when things are going along smoothly," he said.
"However, it does not need much of a change to really cause major problems."
An important factor in how a disaster was handled was the amount of community involvement, he said.
"If a farmer did not accept or receive community support (BlazeAid, Salvation Army etc) they tended to burn out and suffer more mental problems," Mr Peterson said.
"The sooner help of some sort starts to arrive, the better."
Another important factor was the ability for the farmer to accept in a farming life there would be events over which you had no control.
"Accept that these will happen and they will happen again," Mr Peterson said.
"Learn from the past and have a plan. Working towards something gives a goal."
Mr Peterson said probably the most important (but often most neglected) aspect of farming was the health of the major operator. Be aware if things were starting to "get on top of" you, he said.
Not having as much energy, trouble sleeping and being more irritable than usual, could all be indications of health problems.
"If you think a friend may be having problems, encourage them to talk, listen to them," he said.
"You do not have to offer a solution, just listen and talk."
Mr Peterson said good health was not an absence of a definable illness but being able to do what you had to - and having a bit left over.