Open­ing up on the stress of the job

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS / VICTORIA - Ahors­

WHEN IT comes to dairy farmer stress, Ash Hors­burgh has been there, done that. Hav­ing worked in the in­dus­try since he was 15, Ash has suf­fered de­pres­sion that he partly at­tributes to the pres­sure that comes with run­ning a dairy busi­ness. Now, as La­trobe Re­gional Hospi­tal’s Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Co-or­di­na­tor of Dairy Farmer Men­tal Health, he is try­ing to link dairy farm­ers with the men­tal health ser­vices that are avail­able through­out Gipp­s­land. “It’s talk­ing about their stress and find­ing an av­enue where they feel com­fort­able to ac­cess ser­vices,” Mr Hors­burgh said. “My job is to help peo­ple who are strug­gling, by try­ing to ed­u­cate them about the path­ways to care and what ser­vices are out there.” Mr Hors­burgh’s his­tory in the in­dus­try — he was an em­ployee, share-farmer, farm owner and is still in­volved with the fam­ily’s 420 cow dairy farm at Ny­ora — means he can un­der­stand the pres­sures that farm­ers are un­der. The iso­la­tion that comes with run­ning a dairy farm, as well as the con­stant strain of milk price wor­ries and cli­matic con­di­tions means dairy farm­ers are of­ten well down the path of stress re­lated ill­ness be­fore they seek help. He sees his role as help­ing to iden­tify when farm­ers are not cop­ing and help­ing to find them a suit­able av­enue for as­sis­tance. “Get­ting farm­ers to put their hand up and talk to some­one is crit­i­cal,” he said. “Just go­ing to the footy club and hav­ing a chat to some­one about how things are go­ing can be a start.

“I had my own per­sonal bat­tle with de­pres­sion when I was milk­ing cows.”

“I know they can be fright­ened about open­ing up and the stigma around men­tal health, but it’s very, very com­mon and you will find the ma­jor­ity of farm­ers you talk to have a high level of stress at the mo­ment.” Mr Hors­burgh said his own ex­pe­ri­ence with de­pres­sion had given him an in­sight into the dark places that men­tal ill­ness can take peo­ple and strate­gies that can be used to find a way back to the light. “I had my own per­sonal bat­tle with de­pres­sion when I was milk­ing cows, which helps me un­der­stand the prob­lems that farm­ers are hav­ing and also how they can find a path through their stress by start­ing to talk about it,” he said. “Some­times when un­der stress you dwell on neg­a­tive as­pects and for­get the pos­i­tive things about your­self, pos­i­tive things in the past, pos­i­tive things you are do­ing at the mo­ment and pos­i­tive things you can do in the fu­ture. “You come out the other end and you come out quite well. You learn cop­ing strate­gies, so the next time you go down a path­way of iso­la­tion or not talk­ing about things, you can iden­tify it and do some­thing about it.” Mr Hors­burgh said now would be a good time for farm­ers to have a yearly health check-up with their GP, but when mak­ing an ap­point­ment, in­form the re­cep­tion­ist that you wish to have a dou­ble ap­point­ment to talk about your stress. A dou­ble ap­point­ment gives the GP enough time to do a Men­tal Health Plan that al­lows a rebate un­der Medi­care to ac­cess psy­chol­ogy and coun­selling. Mr Hors­burgh can be con­tacted on 0436 188 656 or by email at

Ash Hors­burgh.

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