Helping South Australian farmers cope

RURAL SUPPORT: Rural Business Support chief executive Brett Smith and ifarmwell developer Dr Kate Gunn look over at the ifarmwell online tool kit. Photo - supplied.
RURAL SUPPORT: Rural Business Support chief executive Brett Smith and ifarmwell developer Dr Kate Gunn look over at the ifarmwell online tool kit. Photo - supplied.

An online resource designed in South Australia is being used to help farmers deal with deal with issues such as every day challenges, difficult times and health concerns.

The free online tool kit, ifarmwell, was created by clinical psychologist and UniSA research fellow Dr Kate Gunn, who grew up near Streaky Bay, on the state's west coast.

She developed the program with the help of farmers and experts in behavioural change as well as e-mental health resources and is continuing to use feedback to tailor the site.

Dr Gunn said the tool was based upon what farmers wanted and what research showed would help, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, humour and examples that farmers could relate to by explaining concepts using metaphors and farming concepts.

She said since the program's launch in February 2018 more than 50 farmers had completed the five modules. "Our interim analysis has also shown that most users' levels of distress have significantly decreased," Dr Gunn said.

"While these are encouraging findings, we have recently made some changes based on this feedback to make the website more user-friendly, so we are keen to see how farmers find the new version.

"This will also help us ensure we make meaningful conclusions about the impact of the website and can secure funding for the next phase of the project."

The program can be used by farmers who are not only stressed or feeling down and despondent but by those who would like to improve their ability to cope with the uncertainties that come from working the land.

There is also a section for health professionals which explains the processes of the program.

Rural Business Support, which incorporates the Rural Financial Counselling Service SA/NT, has given is support to the online service and will help to further develop the online tool kit.

RBS chief executive officer Brett Smith said farmers would benefit from the collaboration.

"RBS welcomes the opportunity to work more closely with Dr Gunn and her team to explore how tools like ifarmwell can provide tailored, relatable wellbeing support - support that works - for farmers in distress and their families," Mr Smith said.

"Our farm business management programs are founded on the principles of building preparedness and resilience in rural businesses.

"We know that addressing mental health challenges can ultimately help farmers and their families be better positioned to address and manage challenges to their business as well."