GETTING right the numbers and finances of the drought recovery juggle is one thing but making the best decisions under what is arguably one of the most stressful times a livestock producer will ever encounter is another.
For that reason, producers should treat their own mental health and wellbeing as an asset which requires the same sort of investment, management and attention as pastures and stock.
This is the message from health professionals, who say too few on the land are placing adequate value on their own wellbeing.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service's Cath Walker, a psychologist with the Outback Mental Health Team, says producers have to problem solve mental health with the same intensity they do everything else thrown their way in drought.
"The health of their family and themselves are major variables, but often aren't prioritised in the same way as other business variables," she said.
Speaking at a webinar hosted by the GrazingFutures team at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ms Walker said self-care could sound trivial, yet it's critical to success as a beef producer.
The decisions around staying or going are the hardest, she said.
"The way producers speak about their stock, their pastures and the devastating effects of drought indicates how much their identity is entrenched in their property," Ms Walker said.
"It is this fact that makes it so difficult to even consider the option of leaving. Even just imagining a different future can be hard because it may never have been an option before and is not something they want to do."
When it comes to staying or selling, there is often not necessarily a right decision, Ms Walker said.
"If neither option is what you want, it might be that you have to make the decision that is the best for your health and the long-term wellbeing of your family," she said.
"Closing down a business does not mean failure, and seeing as transferable the skills and networks you have, is important.
"There are many variables you can't control, but focus on what you can control when making decisions and choices that contribute to your quality of life and future."
Finding ways to reduce the physiological effects caused by stress is paramount, Ms Walker said.
"Building relaxation into your day to keep your head clear and allow you to keep working is as important as any part of managing the business," she said.
After 35 years of working with people's health in rural and remote areas, Ms Walker has found there is so much overlap with physical and mental health symptoms it's often difficult to diagnose a cause.
Stress-related health problems can be just as serious as physical health conditions, she said.
"It is more likely that people will go to the doctor with a serious injury or infection but not if stress has got to the point where they're not sleeping, they're constantly irritable, and they can't make rational decisions," she said.
"If you, or a family member, are having problems, offer them plenty of support, don't wait and just hope it will be ok.
"If people are saying things like 'I can't do this anymore, I've had enough' it's time to get them professional assistance. If you're ever worried someone may be thinking about suicide you need to ask them directly.
"Social support may sound superficial but over the decades many people have relied on this to get them through very tough times. Consider professional assistance, if you need it - as you do with your livestock. You are simply another member of the operation that needs support."
Where to get help
- Your general practioner
- Beyondblue 1300 22 4636
- Lifeline 131114
- Suicide call back 1300 659 467
- MensLine 1300 789 978
- My Lifeline (12-20 year olds) 1800 695 463
- Headspace (12-25 year olds) 1800 650 890
Don't miss your copy of the 64-page Glove Box Guide to Mental Health, free with this week's The Land, available Thursday.
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