Having grown up on a farm in remote South Australia, Dr Kate Gunn knows firsthand the impact that events such as drought and fires can have on a farmer’s wellbeing.
A Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow at the University of South Australia, Dr Gunn has led the development of ifarmwell.com.au – the first free, Australian farmer-focused online wellbeing resource, specifically designed to help farmers learn new tools to cope with things beyond their control – like the weather. And you don’t need to be experiencing a mental health problem to benefit.
ifarmwell’s priority is to deliver highly accessible, evidence-based wellbeing education and support that has been designed with, and specifically for, farmers. Its uniqueness lies in the fact it was co-designed by farmers, who were sought out and asked what they wanted from ifarmwell for it to be most helpful for them. This information was carefully combined with evidence-based strategies, to give the resource the best possible chance of having meaningful, sustained impact on farmers’ wellbeing.
The website guides users through a series of modules to learn new ways of coping with the types of stress that farmers commonly endure.
‘While farmers are generally very good problem solvers, much of their stress is caused by things beyond their control like the weather or commodity prices – things they can’t just fix,’ Dr Gunn says.
‘The ifarmwell website aims to give farmers extra coping skills, practical tips and provides feedback on their level of wellbeing, as well as easy-to-use tips on seeking professional mental health help. To keep farmers engaged, ifarmwell also uses short videos, cartoons and text message reminders.’
The website has now been rigorously evaluated, and completion of the modules has been shown to be associated with increases in psychological wellbeing and decreases in distress, that are maintained for at least six months after completion of the last module.
And ifarmwell is not just for farmers. It’s also for those who support farmers including their families, rural advisers, healthcare workers, financial counsellors and more. Based on community feedback since its launch in 2018, ifarmwell has recently released a new, improved website to suit the needs of this broader group of people, who also identify with farming culture or work with farmers.
New features include an option for people working directly with farmers to refer their clients to ifarmwell, and to monitor and encourage their progress through the modules.
Other new updates include a self-guided wellbeing check-up and the ability for farmers who might be a bit worried about someone, but not sure how to help, to easily share ifarmwell with a mate.
The ifarmwell team’s goal for 2022 is to ensure as many Australian farmers and their supporters as possible know about it and can benefit from it. If you have ideas about how they can spread the word in your community, please get in touch.
The new ifarmwell website is available now: www.ifarmwell.com.au