Farm­ing hero breaks down about mental health in bush

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News - Ben Gra­ham news@ru­ral­weekly.com

BREN­DAN Far­rell is re­garded as a hero of the Out­back for many.

By tak­ing do­nated hay to drought-af­fected Aussie farm­ers he has seen some dis­tress­ing and cruel in­sights into the lives of those liv­ing in the midst of the crip­pling dry spells which of­ten wreak havoc for so many.

But, last week the hard­ened truck driver broke down as he found out one of those he had been help­ing on a ru­ral NSW cat­tle farm had taken his own life.

In an emo­tional video mes­sage, which has been shared more than 13,000 times on Face­book, the fourth-gen­er­a­tion farmer from Bur­rum­but­tock de­scribed how the death of his mate had been a “kick in the guts”.

The pair met when Mr Far­rell was de­liv­er­ing dog food in 2015 to drought-af­fected farm­ers in the out­back of NSW.

“I saw this old bloke at the side of the road,” he said.

“I pulled up and said: ‘Mate, do you want some dog food? And, he said: ‘Yeah, righto.’

“I put five bags of dog food in the back of his Jeep and we got talking there and he had the old­est pair of wire strain­ers in the world. They must have seen more kilo­me­tres of wire than I can imag­ine.”

Mr Far­rell headed home and thought he’d pick up a pair of new wire strain­ers and drop them off with the old farmer the next time he went through.

He de­liv­ered the fresh equip­ment with a let­ter telling the farmer to “keep his chin up”. The un­named, sin­gle farmer was “gob­s­macked” and the two stayed in touch ever since. “Bonds are formed in spe­cial ways and that’s what hurt,” Mr Far­rell said as his eyes filled with tears in the video.

“It’s just a real kick in the guts to­day, that’s all.

“To all those farm­ers who are think­ing of do­ing some­thing silly, think of a bond or a spe­cial mo­ment.”

Ear­lier this month, Mr Far­rell re­ceived the Or­der of Aus­tralia medal for his ser­vices to pri­mary in­dus­try, but he said the death had put his award into per­spec­tive.

“Ev­ery award in Aus­tralia can­not bring a life back … I would hand back my award to have this bloke back,” Mr Far­rell said in a video mes­sage.

“He couldn’t get his cat­tle to mar­ket be­cause they were too poor,” he later told Nine News. “He couldn’t sell his prop­erty be­cause it was worth noth­ing. Couldn’t feed his cat­tle be­cause he didn’t have enough money to buy the feed or the freight. So he is gone.”

He is now cam­paign­ing for the Gov­ern­ment to pro­vide more mental health work­ers on the ground in ru­ral ar­eas.

A study pub­lished by the Na­tional Cen­tre for Biotech­nol­ogy In­for­ma­tion last year stated male farm­ers have been found to be at in­creased risk of sui­cide in Aus­tralia.

Long work­ing hours, in­ter­per­sonal con­flicts, phys­i­cal ill­nesses and pain, al­co­hol abuse, ac­cess to firearms, and ex­po­sure to drought were found to be ma­jor fac­tors when re­searchers looked into the deaths of 18 Aus­tralian male farm­ers.

❝formed Bonds are

in spe­cial ways and that’s what hurts... It’s just a real kick in the guts to­day, that’s all.

— Bren­dan Far­rell

If you or some­one you c know needs help, con­tact Life­line on 13 11 14.

PHOTO: LUIS ASCUI

SPEAK­ING OUT: Founder and or­gan­iser of the Bur­rum­but­tock Hay Run­ners, Bren­dan Far­rell posted a video talking about his mate’s death. He wants to see bet­ter sup­port for those bat­tling drought.

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