In your hands

In your hands

Improve your mental health on your terms, in your own time and space.

Life on the land is as wonderful as it is challenging, and looking after your mental health is critical to juggling it all. While this is true for folks in any field, farmers encounter distinct challenges that call for specialised support — and that’s where ifarmwell steps in!

The ifarmwell online toolkit was co-created with Australian farmers, for Australian farmers, and was the brainchild of University of South Australia’s Associate Professor
Kate Gunn. Kate grew up on her family’s farm near Streaky Bay, and a university degree in Clinical Psychology gave her the vision to help as many farmers as possible through the power of technology.

Teaming up with a group of like-minded academics and farmers, Kate spearheaded the development of the ground- breaking ifarmwell tools. These resources are designed to help farmers and their support networks, with five free online modules that are based on research and were developed in collaboration with the ag community. And the best part? They’re easily accessible on your laptop, smartphone or in podcast form, which is perfect for when you’re driving long distances or sitting in the tractor.

We caught up with ifarmwell’s program manager, Dr Natasha Caulfield, to find out more about this incredible service. With a PhD and Masters in Organisational Psychology, Tash works alongside Kate to enhance farmer-friendly support throughout the Australian agricultural sector — and she shared exciting updates about the team’s progress in their mission to help farmers reach their full potential.

In your hands | Partner Mag | Ramsey Bros
Associate Professor Kate Gunn, University of South Australia, with Kym, South Australian farmer.

Who can use the ifarmwell website?

Anyone can benefit from jumping on and checking out the activities, and you don’t have to wait until you feel like things are going downhill to get started. Whether you’re a farmer, part of a farming family, or part of the community, just taking some time to explore the self-help tools can be beneficial.

The first module helps farmers pinpoint where they might need extra support and offers simple tips to help them get started. The following modules build on this by sharing practical strategies that you can use to manage when life gets tough. There are lots of visuals and activities throughout the modules to help make things stick in your mind.

Our website also includes a resources page offering printable tip sheets on topics like sleep and relationships. We’re thrilled about the release of our new Relationship Module and we’re delighted by the positive feedback on our Bushfire Module, which has proven helpful in supporting wellbeing for those who’ve faced that challenge.
And for people who know a farmer or those providing services to farmers, you can easily share the link to the website to get them started. For example, we know that financial stress is a challenge for many farmers, and a financial counsellor might recognise that their client is struggling with their wellbeing, so might refer them to ifarmwell.

How do you ensure it’s effective?

One of the things we really enjoy at ifarmwell is evaluation. Our research has shown that farmers who complete all five modules experience a reduction in their stress and improvements in their wellbeing, and that this is maintained six-months after they’ve completed the modules.

After you finish a module, there’s a chance for you to give feedback and rate the module; and we take insight from our interactions at industry events and from research literature, as well as our own research.

This all helps refine the modules and our research team plays a big role in this by keeping us updated on the latest research in mental health support. We’re always looking at what’s happening nationally and globally to ensure we’re using the best practices available to maximise the benefits of our resources.

Do you provide support in addition to the online toolkit?

Kate designed the online modules because she knew it was the best way to use her skills to reach a greater number of people to help improve their health and wellbeing. But we’ve also held other events, like work-life balance workshops across the state. Led by a fellow farmer with support from a mental health professional, these workshops provided interactive training for farmers over a meal, with a follow up text-message checking if they have been practicing the strategies discussed in the workshop.
We also frequently engage local farmers with opportunities to voice their opinions and needs through activities like the call-out for farmers to have their say about wellbeing videos or to have their input on one of Kate’s other big objectives — establishing a national farmer’s helpline.

Kate Gunn, John Gladigau and Natasha Caulfield at the 2023 National Farmers Federation. Conference in Canberra
The ifarmwell modules
  • Taking stock of your current wellbeing and practical strategies to get you started.
  • Thoughts are like bullies — how to spend less time ‘in your head’.
  • Doing what really matters to get the most out of a busy life.
  • Training your ‘attention muscle’ and focusing on the ‘here and now’ — a more pleasant, less exhausting place to be.
  • Putting it all together and moving forward.

What’s the idea of a national farmer’s helpline?

When farmers reach out for help beyond their immediate circle, it’s crucial that they speak to someone who can relate to the specific challenges farmers face, cutting through the noise and medical jargon to address their needs directly. This personalised approach acknowledges that farmers have distinct concerns that may not apply to others and will provide more effective support when it’s needed most.

It should be easy to access, so that farmers can receive assistance from trained professionals from wherever they are, and whenever they need
it. Ultimately, our goal is to offer this service nationwide.

We also understand that farmers might feel swamped by all the support options out there, so we’re asking for farmers’ perspectives about what they want. In the same way that we got their input for the online toolkit, we’re working closely with the people on the ground to create the helpline too.

How close are you to making that a reality?

There’s a lot happening! We’re trying to secure funding to make this a reality. We’re also reaching out to potential partners, and we’ve just recently completed a scoping review of farmer-focused helplines across the world. We’ve found that countries like the US, UK and Canada do have this service, and it’s a big gap here in Australia, but it will need a coordinated approach.

Attending events like the National Farmers’ Federation Mental Health Forum is also helping us to connect with others working in this space and ensure that our work aligns with what’s happening across the country.

We hear ifarmwell is associated with a successful stage show!
What’s that about?

Yes! Kick Off Ya Boots started in 2021 as a really fun way of promoting mental health awareness. It was written by our Creative Director and Farmer Advocate John Gladigau — and he’s busy writing new content for upcoming shows in Loxton in late September.
This production isn’t just about entertainment — it’s about embedding crucial messages about mental wellbeing throughout the play. The crew have even lent their talents to create promotional materials and videos for ifarmwell’s work-life balance workshops, spreading positivity far and wide.

While there have been talks about taking it to farming communities outside of Loxton, hitting the road poses some logistical challenges (especially because a lot of the actors are volunteers!) but we’re looking at possibilities for bringing more people to Loxton because it’s a must-see event.

There’s lots of exciting work being done to revolutionise mental health support for Australian farmers, and it’s something our whole team is passionate about. We’re lucky to be able to really help people.

In your hands | Partner Magazine | Ramsey Bros
Creative Director and Farmer Advocate John Gladigau with Kate Gunn at the Kick Off Ya Boots performance.



Find any New or Used Machinery