Rural Business Support (RBS) is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with ifarmwell.com.au with the shared goal of helping more Australian farmers manage through tough times and get the most out of every day.

With financial hardship widely recognised as a key contributor to poor mental health, RBS is interviewing rural financial counsellors across Australia on their experiences with interacting with distressed farmers, to gauge how they could be better linked to psychological support such as ifarmwell.

Longer term it is hoped the collaboration will help take ifarmwell from its current pilot phase into the agricultural sector nationally, using the established Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) network across Australia and the RBS Farm Business Strategic Review (FBSR) as vehicles.

The partnership complements RBS’ successful farm business management programs, which combine tailored web tools and on-farm meetings to help families proactively plan for the future of the family farm.

ifarmwell.com.au was launched as a pilot with funding from the University of South Australia, National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Freemasons’ Foundation Centre for Men’s Health, in February 2018. Its development has been led by Dr Kate Gunn, who grew up on a farm near Streaky Bay and is a clinical psychologist, in collaboration with numerous farmers and experts in behaviour change, user engagement and e-mental health. The tool is based upon what farmers want and what research shows will help, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), humour and examples that farmers can relate to.

RBS CEO Brett Smith said that teaming up with ifarmwell aligned with the organisation’s commitment to partnering with likeminded groups to support the development of a competitive, profitable and resilient primary industry sector.

“RBS welcomes the opportunity to work more closely with Dr Gunn and her team at UniSA to explore how tools like ifarmwell can provide tailored, relatable wellbeing support – support that works – for farmers in distress and their families,” Mr Smith said.

“Our farm business management programs are founded on the principles of building preparedness and resilience in rural businesses. We know that addressing mental health

challenges can ultimately help farmers and their families be better positioned to address and manage challenges to their business as well.

“The fact that ifarmwell has been designed by a psychologist from a farming family, is based on what farmers want and uses the kind of language farmers relate to, puts Dr Gunn’s site in a unique position when it comes to providing genuine understanding and support to farmers with their individual and often complex wellbeing challenges.”

Dr Gunn, who has seen firsthand how adverse events including drought can erode wellbeing and confidence, is now looking for more farmers to sign on and complete ifarmwell’s five modules.

“We have received lots of positive feedback from the farmers who have signed up and started testing the site, which has been encouraging,” Dr Gunn said. “We’ve now had over 50 farmers complete all five modules – they have provided us with valuable feedback about the website, its content and design.

“The majority of farmers have rated the modules as ‘helpful’ or ‘very helpful’, demonstrating high levels of satisfaction with the site’s content and our interim analysis has shown that most users’ levels of distress have significantly decreased.

“While these are encouraging findings, we’ve recently made some changes based on this feedback, to make the website more user-friendly, so we are keen to see how farmers find the new version.

“We now need another 50 farmers to complete all five modules to ensure we make meaningful conclusions about the impact of using the website and secure funding for the next phase of the project.”

Comments from farmers who have used ifarmwell.com.au:

  • “It makes you stop and think about where you are at and how you are feeling now and gives hope that I can change things going forward.”
  • “It made me think about the future and how I will tackle it.”
  • “Very helpful strategies to use when I get anxious.”

There are 12 service providers delivering the RFCS nationally, including RBS in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Farmers do not need to be experiencing poor mental health to benefit from using ifarmwell – it has been designed to help improve the wellbeing of all farmers regardless of their circumstances. Visit www.ifarmwell.com.au to register.