Mental Health Week heralds a new partnership for Queensland’s dairy farmers.

In preparation for International Mental Health Week, Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) announced its newly formed on-farm counselling program with Rural Aid to support the mental health and well being of dairy farmers.

There has been a 15% drop in the number of dairy farms operating across Queensland and a 10% drop in the volume of milk produced over the last 12 months. While considerable headway was made earlier this year when supermarkets ended the 9-year $1/l milk discount milk campaign, the dairy industry is in such crisis that it will likely be years before it finds its feet again.

“We are trying to weather a perfect storm at the moment,” said QDO President Brian Tessmann.

“The rising costs of production and the ongoing drought across most of Queensland and New South Wales has put a serious financial and mental strain on Queensland’s dairy farmers. While we’re working with processors and the retailers to get farmers a sustainable price for their milk these things take time and for some farmers it’s just too late”

QDO staff spend a large portion of their time talking with farmers. “Some of our members we’ve never met but spoken to regularly. We’re very aware of their situation in this drought and the accompanying emotional struggle,” said QDO Office Manager, Kerrie Ventnor.

We are working with not-for-profit group, Rural Aid, to encourage farmers to register with Rural Aid so Rural Aid can assist them.  “One of the first things we do with farmers is strategizing and planning. It doesn’t have to be talking about feelings to start off with,” said Rural Aid counsellor, Jane McCollum.

QDO Communications Manager, Sarah Ferguson said, “We looked at several professional counselling services available and evaluated them against what our farmers need. Certainly, a lot of other organisations do a great job in the mental health space, but we felt that our farmers could be best helped by the kind of on the ground counselling that Rural Aid can provide. The enthusiasm, [and] the lack of bureaucracy we’ve seen from the people at Rural is such a welcome change.”

Any farmer or member of a rural community who is finding things difficult are encouraged to register with Rural Aid on 1300 327 624 or at www.ruralaid.org.au