Giving farmers the tools to share their personal stories

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Farmland with blue sky and clouds

Farmer suicide rates are higher than those of the general Australian population.

In summary

  • Workshop for farmers affected by suicide
  • Using digital storytelling to reach out to others
  • Aims to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness

Aussie farmers affected by suicide came together to take part in a workshop that helped them creatively record and share their personal stories.

Swinburne University of Technology worked with the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) to facilitate a three-day course that helped 12 farmers create a digital story of their deep and profound experiences.

Farmer suicide rates are higher than those of the general Australian population. One way the NCFH is addressing this is through The Ripple Effect, a website addressing stigma amongst members of the farming community whose lives have been affected indirectly or directly by suicide.

Swinburne’s Valentina La Piana, Screen Media team leader and facilitator of the community engagement project, explained how the project was developed.

“The focus of the workshop was about giving participants the space to express their story and the tools and support to get it down, so that their stories could be shared as a way to help break the silence that surrounds mental health conditions and suicide,” Valentina shared.

 “It was deep but uplifting. One of the participants created a very emotive story, using nursery rhymes as an analogy, combining spoken word with photos.”

The project aimed to provide participants with creative tools for expressing themselves and sharing their personal stories, in the hope of reaching out to others who may be suffering from psychological distress and from the stigma surrounding it in rural areas.

Through increasing access to conversation, information and insights as a way of reducing stigma, the project hopes to facilitate communication around the subject of suicide and encourage more people to seek treatment and support, when required.

 “We would like to do more of this work. Community outreach is really important. It opens up doors to opportunities that people have never thought of before,” said Valentina.

The workshop was a valuable learning experience, not only for those participating but also for the Swinburne team who ran it and heard the profound and moving experiences of participants. The emotional and challenging nature of the workshop meant the team needed to debrief at the end of every day.

Visit The Ripple Effect website to learn more about the project. Selected stories created by participants are now available for viewing.

If you, or anyone you know, are at risk of hurting yourself or others, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.