Technology to combat Australian farmer suicideResearch news
In response to Australia’s alarming male suicide rate, "beyondblue" will fund the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) to lead an innovative project that uses technology, such as apps and websites – and evidence-based techniques - to encourage male farmers to take action on mental illness.
The project, called “The Ripple Effect,” is being funded through donations from the Movember Foundation and is one of six new "beyondblue" projects that aim to tackle suicide through technology, each targeting different demographics of Australian men.
“The Ripple Effect” will target Australia’s farming community, where many males are known to avoid seeking help – particularly for mental health issues – and believe they should demonstrate toughness and self-reliance, rather than emotional vulnerability. Self-stigma and perceived-stigma is common and can be extremely debilitating.
The NCFH will receive around $440,000 to conduct the program over two years - providing a peer-supported environment where males from farming communities aged 30-64 can share their experiences, learn from each other and build knowledge and skills to assist them through their challenges.
The intervention will be flexible, so men can participate when, where and how it suits them; whether they have access to the latest smart phone or iPad, or an ageing home computer or even a fax machine.
The project is being undertaken in partnership with Sandpit, Victorian Farmers’ Federation, AgChatOz, Mental Illness Fellowship North Qld,and Western District Health Service.
The Director of the NCFH, Associate Professor Susan Brumby, noted that men in Australia’s farming community live and work in a unique environment that increases their risk of suicide and their likelihood of having a lived experience of suicide, such as attempted suicide, bereavement by suicide, or being touched by suicide in another way.
According to "beyondblue" CEO, Georgie Harman, the STRIDE (Stigma Reduction Interventions: Digital Environments) project is a response to the "nearly 2000 men who die by suicide each year, with men three times more likely to die this way than women.”
"This is a national tragedy and is fuelled by the fact that men don’t seek help for mental health problems as much as women because they don’t want to be seen as weak or as a burden on others. In recent years there have been increases in awareness about depression and anxiety, but we now need to focus on using digital tools to reduce the stigma that prevents men from seeking support and keeps the suicide rate high,” Ms Harman said.
“We must focus on stigma reduction within the digital environment because this is where men spend an increasing amount of time, and STRIDE aims to do this by challenging the attitudes of participating men.”
Other targeted communities include over 600 refugees with post-traumatic stress disorder and up to 1,000 former Australian rules players, coaches and construction workers.
“As a catalytic funder of men’s health programs globally, the Movember Foundation is proud to donate funds to this ground-breaking program. It is thanks to funds raised by the Mo community that we are able to support innovative programs such as this,” said the Movember Foundation’s Executive Director of Programs, Paul Villanti.