Nambour Men's Shed coordinator Mark Wall won the has won an awrd in the care friendly business awards. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily
Nambour Men's Shed coordinator Mark Wall won the has won an awrd in the care friendly business awards. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily Warren Lynam

Working on ground zero to connect with farmers

SINCE February, Mark Wall has been on the ground working with those who work on the land.

The chaplain spends his time travelling to rural and remote properties across the region, attempting to connect with farmers, offer them help and walk them through their struggles.

In rural areas there can often be apprehension around help-seeking and a fear of the stigma sometimes associated with mental illness, and Mr Wall has learnt that it's not common for producers to ask for help.

"It's imperatively important to understand that farmers, particularly the men, do not feel comfortable in approaching doctors," Mr Wall said.

"Farmers don't tell you they're having problems."

Mr Wall views the role of a chaplain as different to a counsellor - seeing himself as a listener and a friend.

He believes the best way to connect with farmers is through trust and working with them in an environment where they feel at ease.

"I end up kicking dirt with them sometimes because you have to show them you're there and show them respect," he said.

"Sometimes talking is not enough - you have to participate in their situation."

Prior to his work in mental health, Mr Wall spent years as a church pastor and in the development of men's sheds and has found a caring approach is the way to connect with those at risk.

"I believe suicide prevention best happens when people feel that they're cared for, rather than have a service provided," he said.

Although Mr Wall believed government funding for mental health was helpful, it was a limited service. "My experience has told me that people don't like going to doctors," he said.

"Suicide prevention happens when someone feels cared for and that involves a relationship and intimacy the government can't go into.

"Finding a process where the funding finishes and somehow leapfrog to the people to build tangible resources at a relational and intimate level is what will help in the long run."

South Burnett

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