Dairy Co-op Takes Stock Of Farmer Mental Health With Grassroots Support

Northern Rivers ‘Farmer Army’ expands with new mental health recruit.

Norco, Australia’s largest and oldest dairy co-operative has announced the expansion of its ‘Farmer Army’ with new mental health recruit and dairy farmer veteran, Craig Waddell.

Norco recognised the crucial need for the newly created role of Mental Health Support Officer, following its own research about farmer mental health, which found close to half (45%) of Australian farmers had thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Coined the National Farmer Wellbeing Report and in partnership with the National Farmers Federation, close to half of Australian farmers (45%) have felt depressed and nearly two thirds (64%) have experienced anxiety in the past few years.

Additional findings from the report found two of the top three factors impacting Australian farmer mental health were financial stress (36%), and inflation and cost pressures (35%). Adding to this, more than half (51%) of Australian farmers who struggle, do not want to burden their family or friends.

Michael Hampson, Norco Chief Executive Officer said the newly created position of Mental Health Support Officer will provide support exclusively to their farmer members who may need to talk to someone during challenging times or simply want to have a chat with another farmer.

“Craig has extensive farming experience and brings a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by farmers and will be available to all our farmer members to lend a supportive and empathetic ear.

“The commitment Craig brings to the role of helping others and fostering a support network aligns with our mission of making a positive impact on the lives of those we serve,” Mr Hampson concludes.

Craig Waddell, Mental Health Support Officer for Norco who was a dairy farmer for 45 years, was announced to Norco members this month and is excited to commence his role supporting farmers who are struggling with their mental health.

“I bring a deep understanding of the unique challenges farmers face, and some farmers get tested every day, with some days better than others.

“If there are farmers out there that need someone to talk to, I am just a phone call or farm visit away to have a yarn and help make sense of their feelings and thoughts.

“Helping our farmers is not only a great thing to do for our industry, but I feel like I am giving back to an industry I have worked in for so long,” Craig adds.

Whilst Craig’s services, are exclusive to Norco members, his role will support the incredible work already being done by Norco member Ross Blanch and the Queensland Lifeline Farmer to Farmer program.

Ross Blanch who saw a 30 per cent increase in Norco farmer referrals after the National Farmer Wellbeing launch in 2023, welcomes the additional support from Craig Waddell.

“I have been helping farmers for the last five years by empowering them to express their feelings and show them that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed and challenged.

“Farmers aren’t built to talk and so it’s really important that they have someone they can connect with who speaks their language and understands the unique struggles they face.

“I welcome Craig in his new role; the more farmers we have in the army the better. Giving farmers greater access to mental health support is vital for our industry and sometimes all it takes is for them to be heard and understood,” Ross adds.

Norco, Australia’s oldest and largest 100% farmer owned cooperative, firmly believes that mental health is an integral part of overall well-being and is dedicated to creating a supportive environment for its farmer members, ensuring it is improving the lives of their farmers, people and the community.

Norco Chief Executive Officer, Michael Hampson will be attending the National Farmers Federation National Forum on Mental Health and Wellbeing in Agriculture on 13 March, a forum where leaders across the agricultural sector can further discuss what can be meaningfully implemented to improve mental health and wellbeing across the agricultural industry.

For more information about Norco’s commitment to farmer mental health please read the commissioned Report here: National Farmer Wellbeing Report 2023

If you or anyone you know needs help:
• Lifeline on 13 11 14
• Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
• Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
• Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
• Headspace on 1800 650 890
• ReachOut at au.reachout.com
• MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
• Head to Health at headtohealth.gov.au