How to improve primary producer psychological health and safety

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Wednesday, 7 April, 2021 - 12:15
Industry news
National News

There are a range of work-related factors which contribute to poor mental health among primary producers, and these factors require a different approach in order to improve psychological health and safety, according to Deakin University.

Research evidence suggests that primary producers experience a higher risk of suicide when compared with the general population, said Alison Kennedy, a senior research fellow with the National Centre for Farmer Health at Deakin University.

Poor mental health and suicide risk can be influenced by a complex range of factors for primary producers, she said.

“Situational factors such as social and geographic isolation, exposure to extreme climatic events, limited access to appropriate support services, financial and family business pressures, poor physical health and high levels of work-related uncertainty can all contribute to primary producers’ poor mental health,” said Kennedy, who was speaking ahead of the 2021 AIHS National Health & Safety Conference, which will be held online from 18-20 May 2021.

“We know of a range of programs that focus on supporting primary producers experiencing poor mental health (including our previous National Centre for farmer Health work on the Ripple Effect).

Kennedy said she hopes that the work of the Primary Producer Knowledge Network will address some of the root causes of poor mental health and help to prevent primary producers from reaching a point where support is necessary.

The Primary Producer Knowledge Network has been working with primary producers (farmers and fishers) and stakeholders to develop strategies for preventing work-related risks to mental health.

“Through these strategies, we aim to address work-related factors such as high job demands, low workplace control, poor organisational change management, poor workplace relationships, low role clarity and poor support,” said Kennedy.

“Building on our work over the last year with primary producers and stakeholders, we will soon be launching ‘Campfire’ – an interactive digital platform that will provide primary producers with:

·         interaction with experts and peer networks,

·         best-practice capacity-building tools and resources, and

·         action-oriented, solution-focused stories that address relevant work-related factors across a wide range of primary production sectors.

“In primary production, we often focus on what is outside of our control, and this can have a negative impact on people’s mental health,” said Kennedy, who explained the Primary Producer Knowledge Network has identified that there are many things which we can influence as primary producers to make positive and proactive changes in our workplace. “This could be changing how we can communicate or approach decision making within a primary production business. It might be how we approach succession planning or how we work,” she said.

Kennedy will be speaking at the 2021 AIHS National Health & Safety Conference, which will be held online from 18-20 May 2021. For more information call (03) 8336 1995, email or visit the conference website.