Above: Sallie Jones and the Gippsland Jersey calendar
When Sallie Jones’ father took his own life during the dairy crisis two years ago, it was a devastating and defining moment. She had two choices: to let grief consume her or channel it into something positive. Sallie has campaigned ever since to smash the stigma around mental health and support those in rural communities to seek help and get better.
Sallie, who grew up on a dairy farm in Lakes Entrance and worked in her father’s ice-cream shop, has launched a calendar sharing the mental health journeys of 12 Gippsland farmers. By lifting the lid on their struggles, these brave men and women hope to save lives. The calendar, which includes information on local health and wellbeing services, was delivered free of charge to 1,400 farms in Gippsland.
“Creating the calendar was a cathartic process,” says Sallie, who credits her unshakeable faith and a cohort of strong, rural women for guiding her through her darkest days. “When Dad died, this village of women were there for me, brought me meals, looked after my three children, who were all under eight at the time, and cleaned my house. They were amazing,” she says.
Sallie, a co-owner of Gippsland Jersey in Warragul, understands the challenges facing farmers who have faced drought, bushfires, shortage of workers and plummeting prices with formidable resilience. But she has learned to ‘survive and thrive’ by leading a structured, social and healthy lifestyle and accepting the support of professional counsellors.
Her tips for keeping a healthy headspace include:
- Sticking to a regular exercise ritual, ideally done with friends
- Eating organic and healthy food
- Scheduling time out for yourself and friends, especially those you can be honest with
- Talking to a health professional when things get tough.
A co-founder of the Women in Gippsland group and Warragul Farmers Markets, Sallie, a former school captain and entrepreneurial leader, keeps herself challenged, attending leadership courses and speaking on health issues to honour her Dad’s legacy.
“I want to see more fairness in the food system and I want Gippsland to be known as an area that looks after its farmers and lets them know that we really do care,” she says.
The calendar was supported by the Place Based Suicide Prevention Trials with funding from the Victorian Government and the Federal Department of Health through Gippsland Primary Health Network.
Quick facts: In regional Victoria, the suicide rate is 14.9 per 100,000 people with the most vulnerable sectors being men aged 85-plus and 40-44 years and women aged 35-39 years. The tragic toll prompted a two-part series in the New York Times earlier this year, encouraging urgency for more action to support farmers across Australia. See nytimes.com/2018/05/20/world/australia/rural-suicides-farmers-globalization
If this story raises any concerns with you, please call Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636.
See The Ripple Effect to share your story and help remove the stigma around mental health. The Ripple Effect is an online campaign developed by the National Centre for Farmer Health with key partners as part of beyondblue’s STRIDE Project with donations from the Movember Foundation.