Naked truths of ru­ral life

Great Southern Herald - - News - Cally Dupe and Zoe Keenan

A groundswell of good­will and hu­mour, prompted by farm­ers get­ting their kit off, has drawn at­ten­tion to a more se­ri­ous is­sue: men­tal health.

The founder of pop­u­lar In­sta­gram page The Naked Farmer, wrapped up his month-long tour of WA this week, vis­it­ing farm­ers across the State.

From Dum­b­leyung to Ku­nunurra, Vic­to­rian farmer Ben Brooksby and his best mate Emma Cross pho­tographed WA grain, sheep and cat­tle farm­ers on their broad­acre and pas­toral prop­er­ties.

The pic­tures will be used in a char­ity book and cal­en­dar be­ing pro­duced by Brooksby to raise funds for char­ity.

Dum­b­leyung farmer Josh Ball hosted the pair for a night, tak­ing his gear off at some favourite lo­ca­tions on his farm.

He said he hoped the pair’s tour, cal­en­dar and book would en­cour­age more peo­ple to talk about how they were feel­ing.

“I know a few peo­ple who have com­mit­ted sui­cide and it’s a topic that needs to be ad­dressed,” he said.

“If it can open up some con­ver­sa­tions about men­tal health then it can only be a good thing.”

Mr Ball, who farms with his par­ents and brother, said the photo shoot was far more fun than awk­ward.

“I don’t mind get­ting nude any­way . . . ,” he laughed. “They made you feel very com­fort­able, they were very good.”

At Mullewa, a group of 17 ladies hope their stripped-back im­age will en­cour­age farm­ers and the com­mu­nity to talk about men­tal health is­sues.

With their hands to the sky and butts to the cam­era, the ladies were pho­tographed last week wad­ing into a dam in freez­ing con­di­tions.

Seven lo­cal blokes also got naked for a cheeky photo while out rock pick­ing.

Mullewa res­i­dent Jenna McGre­gor stum­bled across The Naked Farmer In­sta­gram page and wanted to get in­volved with the tour.

Af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with anx­i­ety at the age of 20, Ms McGre­gor said she un­der­stood the strug­gle some peo­ple went through.

“You are con­stantly wor­ried about the weather, won­der­ing when the next lot of rain will be,” she said.

“Last year wasn’t a fan­tas­tic year for farm­ing in Mullewa so go­ing into a new sea­son ev­ery­one is on edge need­ing good rain­fall and a good sea­son.”

Ms McGre­gor said while there were great doc­tors and tele­health ser­vices in Mullewa, it wasn’t the same as sit­ting down talk­ing one-on-one with some­body.

“We want to share this amaz­ing pho­to­graph and say this is why we did it and tell peo­ple to keep the con­ver­sa­tions go­ing to sup­port each other,” she said.

Fi­nan­cial stress, re­mote­ness, lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion are just some fac­tors that see farm­ers fac­ing dif­fer­ent de­mons in re­gional WA.

Sui­cide rates in ru­ral ar­eas are con­sis­tently 40 per cent higher than the rates in metropoli­tan ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to na­tional men­tal health char­ity Sane Aus­tralia.

For Mr Brooksby, the chance to help out has been worth it.

Pic­ture: Josh Ball

Emma Cross and Ben Brooksby at the Ball fam­ily farm in Dum­b­leyung.

Pic­ture: Emma Cross

Dum­b­leyung farmer Josh Ball poses naked at his fam­ily farm.

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