New resource helps grow farmers' well-being after a bushfire

New resource helps grow farmers' well-being after a bushfire
This free interactive self-help resource has been designed by Australian farmers affected by fires, for Australian farmers. Credit: Shutterstock

Nearly two years after the devastating bushfires of 2019–2020, many farming communities are still coming to terms with the impacts.

Now, a new online bushfire resource—Recovering After a Farm Fire—is hoping to provide Aussie farmers with the support and information they need to help them process and recover after a bushfire.

Launched today by the University of South Australia, this free interactive self-help resource has been designed by Australian farmers affected by fires, for Australian farmers.

It hopes to share information and practical tools to help farmers and their supporters to adapt effectively if they have experienced a fire, and to prepare psychologically in case of future fires.

Led by UniSA Senior Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kate Gunn, the new bushfire resource is part of the successful ifarmwell website, to help farmers cope effectively with life's challenges and get the most out of each day.

"Growing up on a farm myself, gave me an insight into the ups and downs that farmers face. When farmers in my community were struggling and wondering where to seek confidential, free help, we came up with the ifarmwell website," Dr. Gunn says.

"The new bushfire module focuses on equipping farmers with practical strategies that are helpful for coping with a range of challenges, including stress and trauma, which are often experienced by farmers who are significantly affected by fires.

"It's based upon things that other farmers affected by bushfires have told us they found helpful—as well as evidence-based psychological techniques. It covers topics such as how to deal with post-bushfire workloads, how to manage stress, anger, and worry, and importantly, how to maintain good relationships with your community and those around you.

"Ultimately, it gives farmers practical tools, based upon and what other farmers have found useful, to help manage their individual situation."

The free 30–60-minute module can be accessed on a computer, smartphone, or tablet—anywhere with —so farmers have the choice to connect from their tractor, shed or home.

It includes contributions from 16 farmers who collaborated on the project, to help other farmers who may have faced similar challenges to them.

South Australian dairy , Mick Kowald, has been running the family farm for 20 years. In the aftermath of the 2020 bushfires, he worked around the clock as he cleaned up after the fire and kept the farm running. After 3–4 days of constant work, little sleep, and extreme stress, he ended up in hospital with a panic attack.

"I realized I couldn't deal with the bushfire impacts on my own; I had to take a step back and slow down," Kowald says.

"The fire was bigger than anything I could fix in a couple of days, and it was going to take a long time to repair the damage on our farm.

"So, I took a few days off and stepped back from it all. I spent a lot of time in my veggie patch, I made sure I cut back on the alcohol, I got involved with community recovery efforts, and I spent a lot more time with my family.

"After a bushfire event like I've been through, I think it's so important that you really take time to look after yourself, pace yourself, be aware that you may suffer similar things that I've been through."

As an advocate and contributor to the ifarmwell site, Mick willingly gave on what the new module should contain and shared his experiences in a video. He says the value lies in the content being specifically tailored to farmers.

"The ifarmwell website has been a great resource for me over the years," Kowald says.

"Certainly, it takes some time and commitment to work through, but the advice and strategies on the site are all practical and focused for farmers, so it's all very real and relatable.

"My advice is simple: keep talking to your mates and neighbors, share your stories, don't be afraid to open up, and seek advice from resources like ifarmwell if you need it."

More information: ifarmwell website: ifarmwell.com.au/about

Citation: New resource helps grow farmers' well-being after a bushfire (2022, October 24) retrieved 5 February 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-resource-farmers-well-being-bushfire.html
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