Mental health issues and their impact on individuals and communities in regional Australia have been highlighted at Hort Connections 2017, with a Mental Health Panel contributing to ongoing industry efforts to break the stigma of mental health issues and encourage growers to speak up when they’re feeling down.
The headline speaker at the session was beyondblue Chairman and former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, who discussed the prevalence of depression in rural areas of Australia, as well as looking at tactics to help assist those who are struggling.
Following Mr Kennett’s address, a panel discussion and question-and-answer session took place, with Mal Coutts from Talk to a Mate, Linda Bertram from the Country Women’s Association and Stu Jennings, Victorian potato grower and founder of Young Potato People, all taking to the stage to answer the audience’s questions about rural mental health and the ways that issues can be addressed.
Contributing the combined experience and knowledge from their range of backgrounds, the speakers answered questions from attendees about the range of effects that mental health conditions may have on both individuals and communities.
“Unfortunately, mental health disorders are still widely misunderstood, both in the agricultural industry and in Australian society as a whole. Many people in our industry tend to suffer in silence at the hands of these conditions, quite often due to the stigma which still surrounds them,” said AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside.
“Encouraging conversation is one of the best ways we can alleviate the sense of taboo that still surrounds depression, anxiety and a number of other conditions that so many struggle with.
“The more we openly discuss the topic and break down the barriers about acknowledging mental health issues, the more we can encourage individuals to speak up when they are feeling down.
“Having an event such as this, where attendees could have any questions about mental health answered and learn tactics to assist themselves or those close to them, was an absolute standout part of Hort Connections 2017,” said Mr Whiteside.
“Being able to openly discuss the topic will hopefully assist attendees to feel more comfortable doing so in other environments and give them a deeper insight into the complexities of mental health.”