RBS and ifarmwell partner to help more Aussie farmers better manage business and wellbeing

Farmers are being encouraged to utilise and provide feedback on new online toolkit ifarmwell to help fellow farmers better look after their wellbeing and cope effectively with life’s challenges.

Rural Business Support (RBS) has announced its backing of the online service by partnering with ifarmwell.com.au and the University of South Australia (UniSA) to support the further development of the unique farmer-focused tool kit.

Founder, clinical psychologist and research fellow at UniSA Dr Kate Gunn and her team are now seeking up to 50 farmers to provide further input into shaping the site. The partnership with RBS will enable further extension of the project into the future using the RBS Farm Business Strategic Review and the established Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) network as promotional vehicles.

With financial hardship widely recognised as a key contributor to poor mental health, UniSA is interviewing rural financial counsellors from the 12 RFCS providers nationally to hear their experiences of interacting with distressed farmers to gauge how they could be better linked to appropriate support such as ifarmwell.

Dr Gunn, who has seen first-hand how adverse events including drought can erode wellbeing and confidence, said the ifarmwell team had received highly positive feedback from farmers who had signed up and started testing the site.

“We have had more than 50 farmers complete all five modules, providing us with valuable feedback about the website, its content and design,” she said.

“Our interim analysis has also shown that most users’ levels of distress have significantly decreased.

“While these are encouraging findings, we have 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. This will also help us ensure we make meaningful conclusions about the impact of the website and can secure funding for the next phase of the project.”

ifarmwell.com.au was launched as a pilot with funding from UniSA, National Australia Bank, the Freemasons’ Foundation and the Freemasons’ Foundation Centre for Men’s Health, in February 2018.

Its development has been led by Dr Gunn, who grew up on a farm near Streaky Bay, 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 Chief Executive Officer Brett Smith said 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 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.”

To register, head to www.ifarmwell.com.au. 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. To take a tour of  ifarmwell please tap here: https://youtu.be/UzXHHA9Z9-M

Media contacts:

Brett Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Rural Business Support, 0412 630 015, b.smith@ruralbusinesssupport.org.au

Dr Kate Gunn, Developer, ifarmwell and Research Fellow, Department of Rural Health, University of South Australia, 8302 2137, 0417 852 537, kate.gunn@unisa.edu.au