The day Warren Davies lay on his dairy floor wondering if the world was better off without him was a turning point in his mental health and personal journey. At the Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar, Warren described his mission to raise awareness and inspire conversations about mental health – particularly in regional and rural communities.

 

 

Warren’s tipping point came after a series of stressful farm-related events, but the seeds were sown earlier. His family moved a lot, making it hard to establish childhood friendships. The transition to high school was particularly tough.

“I was the only kid from my primary school who ended up there. The verbal bullying started the first day. It became physical by the end. That had a major impact on my mental health but also my education. I went from a straight A student in year seven to failing in year nine,” Warren said.

A move to the country proved positive, with Warren soon finding work on a dairy farm.

“Luckily it was with one of the best farmers in the district. He said, ‘if you stick with me, I’ll teach you everything you need to know’. I learned to be a plumber, welder, to grow grass, and fix cows and tractors.”

Another great thing was finding his girlfriend, now his wife. Getting engaged when Warren was 22, they purchased 200 acres next to his parents’ property and joined them together in a family business.

 

Farming challenges set in

However, they soon encountered troubles. First came a flood. “My farm turned into a swimming pool. We were underwater for about four weeks.” Warren said this taught him about overcoming adversity, but also triggered his adverse childhood experiences.

Next came a “family bust-up”, which led to Warren and his wife buying out his parents’ property. Despite a robust 10-year plan, their business dream began unraveling when prolonged drought struck.

By the third year, the situation was dire. “I was in a really dark place, spiralling out of control. When cows I was supposed to look after we’re starting to die, I felt a lot of guilt and shame.”

After coward punching his best mate on the AFL field, “I knew I was in a bad spot,” Warren said.  “I started to isolate myself.”

Following this came the “dark afternoon” lying on the dairy floor. “I call that my ‘two feet of perspective’ because at that moment, where I thought ending my life was the best option, my whole life flashed before my eyes. Life gave me two choices: I could continue to spiral out of control, or I could choose to become better,” he said.

“I chose to become better that afternoon.”

Ongoing drought meant they walked off their farm. Warren’s quest to find identity and purpose outside farming led to his speaking career as The Unbreakable Farmer.

 

Warren Davies speaking at the Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar at Hort Connections 2022

Prioritise your mental health

Warren noted farmers are great at protecting their soil and crops, and should do the same for their most important business asset – themselves. He described three ‘As’ for doing this.

First is awareness. He recommends reviewing your social, physical, emotional, vocational, and financial wellbeing regularly, and knowing your values.

Second is acknowledge: your support networks (particularly finding five people you love and trust), your triggers, and the non-negotiable things you need to do for yourself.

Thirdly, act on what you can control, including practicing gratitude and mindfulness.

Helping others

Warren also offered tips for helping someone dealing with mental health challenges, including listening attentively, not judging, and being empathetic. He emphasised the importance of seeking help if you or someone you know needs it. Organisations like Lifeline and Rural Aid have the training and resources to assist.

 

Find out more

The AVIS videos are available on the AUSVEG Youtube channel.

The Annual Vegetable Industry Seminar is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund.

This project has been funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.

Project Number: VG21003

 

Mental health resources

There are organisations available for people who are looking for more information about mental health and they can give advice on how to deal with personal mental health issues or those that arise in your workplace, communities, friends or families.

beyondblue

Beyond Blue has been providing supports and services to people in Australia for 20 years.

Beyond Blue works with the community to improve mental health and prevent suicide, so that all people in Australia can achieve their best possible mental health.

Through its Beyond 2020 Strategy, it’s working across three strategic priorities:

  1. Promoting mental health and wellbeing so people have greater knowledge, feel safe to talk openly about their issues and are supported to ask for help when they need to.
  2. Being a trusted source of information, advice and support so we can all better understand how to maintain our mental health and take steps to recover from mental health conditions.
  3. Working together to prevent suicide by playing a lead role in the national effort to prevent suicide through research, information, advice and support, and advocacy.

For further information on anxiety, depression or suicide visit beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 22 4636 (24 hours/7 days a week).

To chat to a trained mental health professional, please visit beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support.

 

Black Dog Institute

Black Dog Institute is a proudly independent not-for-profit medical research institute affiliated with The University of New South Wales.

Its focus today has expanded to address new challenges and opportunities in mental health – suicide prevention, digital innovation, lived experience, youth and workplace mental health. Its work in mood disorders continues through investigation of new and better ways to treat and prevent conditions like anxiety and depression through digital tools and novel treatments.

For more information visit blackdoginstitute.org.au.

 

Lifeline

Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. It is committed to empowering Australians to be suicide-safe through connection, compassion and hope.

For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

The online Crisis Support Chat service is also available every night at lifeline.org.au/crisischat.

 

MensLine Australia

MensLine Australia is the national telephone and online support, information and referral service for men with family and relationship concerns. The service is available from anywhere in Australia and is staffed by professional counsellors, experienced in men’s issues.

For more information, visit mensline.org.au or call 1300 78 99 78.

 

MindSpot

MindSpot is a free service for Australian adults who are experiencing difficulties with anxiety, stress, depression and low mood. It provides assessment and treatment courses or can help find local services that can help.

The MindSpot team comprises experienced and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency-registered mental health professionals including psychologists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who are passionate about providing a free and effective service to people all over Australia. It has a dedicated IT team to ensure that this happens as securely and efficiently as possible.

For more information, please call 1800 61 44 34 or visit mindspot.org.au.

 

SANE Australia

SANE Australia is a national mental health charity making a real difference in the lives of people affected by complex mental health issues through support, research and advocacy.

Counsellors are available via phone, web chat or email from 10am to 10pm Monday to Friday AEST/AEDT.

For more information, please call the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or visit sane.org.

 

Suicide Call Back Service

Suicide Call Back Service offers free professional 24/7 telephone counselling support to people at risk of suicide, concerned about someone at risk, bereaved by suicide and people experiencing emotional or mental health issues.

It also offers free professional 24/7 online counselling support.

Call 1300 659 467 or visit suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

 

Further resources

These are just some examples of the mental health services available in Australia. More can be found at ausveg.com.au/mental-health-industry/resources-2/

 

If you require emergency assistance, please contact 000.

 

Someone is threatening self-harm. What can I do?

Lifeline has developed a range of free toolkits to provide information and assistance during challenging times. These include a self-help resource to help people cope with natural disasters; a self-harm factsheet; a toolkit for helping someone at risk of suicide, and much more.

Browse and download Lifeline’s range of toolkits and factsheets here: lifeline.org.au/resources/toolkit-downloads/

Still unsure about what to do or need a debrief? Those who are worried about a loved one or community member who is threatening self-harm can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support and further advice.