Funny farm­hand

Farm­hand shares quirky videos and spreads men­tal health mes­sage

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - NEWS - AN­DREA DAVY An­[email protected]­ral­weekly.com.au

DEON Richard­son is that guy you would never ex­pect to have a men­tal health is­sue.

When he was a child he was al­ways mak­ing peo­ple laugh and is the kind of fella who tells his sto­ries “a lit­tle more ec­cen­tri­cally”.

His per­sonal Face­book page has a wealth of hu­mour.

Bore­dom dur­ing long shifts work­ing as a broad-acre farm­hand prompted him to share his “trac­tor thoughts” in short, quirky videos.

With a straight face he will talk through the likes of self-bal­ing hay, trouser snakes and how his trac­tor, even on cold morn­ings, feels like a “so­lar­ium on wheels”.

You can’t help but have a gig­gle at his an­tics.

To him, the act of mak­ing oth­ers laugh is a method for keep­ing his own men­tal health in check.

“If I can make just one per­son laugh a day, then that’s a pretty good feel­ing to have in­side,” he said.

One of Mr Richard­son’s videos re­cently reached more than 300,000 peo­ple, so this week the Ru­ral Weekly caught up with him to learn more about the man be­hind the mus­ings.

The 35-year-old farm­hand works full-time for the McMa­hon broth­ers, on a mixed en­ter­prise prop­erty about 70km out­side of Pin­na­roo in South Aus­tralia.

He de­scribes his job as a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially dur­ing peak times when 14-hour days be­come the norm, but ex­tremely re­ward­ing – he likes be­ing out­side and see­ing a sea­son’s hard work come to an end at har­vest.

Four years ago, how­ever, Mr Richard­son found him­self in the midst of a men­tal-health cri­sis.

“I was di­ag­nosed with se­vere clin­i­cal de­pres­sion,” he said.

“So I spent some time in a men­tal health fa­cil­ity, I was there for about two or three weeks.”

He de­scribed his di­ag­no­sis as a shock – he never thought he would be the type of bloke who would be deal­ing with de­pres­sion.

“I wasn’t re­ally that self-aware to know it was some­thing I suf­fered,” Mr Richard­son said.

“Ob­vi­ously, with the type of per­son­al­ity I have, peo­ple didn’t see it com­ing for some­one like me.

“It felt like a strange di­ag­no­sis for me to get.”

In the process of get­ting bet­ter, Mr Richard­son was taught meth­ods to help him cope with his de­pres­sion.

“Since then, I have found mak­ing these silly lit­tle videos helps me,” he said.

He talks openly about his men­tal health and is pas­sion­ate about shar­ing his story.

“I am in­cred­i­bly proud of the jour­ney I have made and, re­ally, my per­son­al­ity hasn’t changed much,” he said.

“Be­fore I was di­ag­nosed with a men­tal health is­sue to now, all that has changed is my abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate. I can com­mu­ni­cate what I am go­ing through much bet­ter.

“It has made me pas­sion­ate about want­ing to talk about it.

“Ob­vi­ously men­tal health is a huge is­sue in Aus­tralia but es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas where farm­ing life can be a fairly love­less and lonely job at times.”

Dur­ing long stints be­hind the wheel of a trac­tor or har­vester, Mr Richard­son lis­tens to mu­sic and pod­casts – but he says ran­dom thoughts pop into his mind.

Like, for in­stance, the self-rolling hay bales.

“Well, I have been bal­ing

❝Ob­vi­ously, with the type of per­son­al­ity I have, peo­ple didn’t see it com­ing for some­one like me.

— Deon Richard­son

hay for a good cou­ple of weeks now and a strange idea came into my mind that I could make a funny lit­tle video about hay bales rolling them­selves up,” he said.

A cross be­tween David At­ten­bor­ough and Rus­sell Coight, Mr Richard­son ex­plained how the bales “picked up the fluffy stuff” as they rolled along.

“Once these bales roll them­selves, they form this skin over them that holds them to­gether,” he ex­plained in the video.

He said you could tell they were ready to be har­vested when you could push them and they moved freely or when you did the “good old lick test”. Mr Richard­son started mak­ing the videos to make his mates and lo­cals around Pin­na­roo laugh. He felt hum­bled to see the footage shared heav­ily on so­cial me­dia.

“With a big­ger reach, I think I can make more peo­ple laugh,” he said.

In the mix of ridicu­lous and funny videos, Mr Richard­son shares posts about men­tal health and de­scribes his jour­ney through po­etry.

“It’s im­por­tant for me to com­mu­ni­cate that you don’t have to be some­one who looks sad all the time to be some­one who suf­fers from de­pres­sion,” he said.

“It can af­fect any­one and it af­fects a lot of us.

“I am very pas­sion­ate about talk­ing about my ex­pe­ri­ence with my friends to try to take the stigma away.”

As some­one who has sur­vived the depths of de­pres­sion, his ad­vice for those want­ing to help their own mates was fairly sim­ple: give them a call.

“If you see your friends are strug­gling with any­thing, some­times all they want is some­one to talk to but they might not be in the right place to ask for that help,” he said.

“Be­ing aware of how your friends and fam­ily are act­ing and how they be­have when they are pub­lic ver­sus how they act when they are alone is im­por­tant.

“I don’t think you should feel afraid to ask some­one how they are feel­ing.”

Mr Richard­son said his bosses had a good laugh at his videos and sup­ported his “silli­ness”, so he was keen to keep the com­edy rolling.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

FUNNY FARM­HAND: Deon Richard­son is grow­ing a fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia by post­ing hu­mor­ous videos.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Deon Richard­son speaks out on men­tal health.

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