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Are you bogged mate? helps blokes in the bush with mental health

Are you bogged mate?

Are you bogged mate? is a program helping blokes living in country locations to talk about their mental health in an effort to bring down the rates of suicide and spread awareness about depression in the bush and how to get ‘unbogged’.

As cost-of-living hikes ripple across the country, men living on the land often supporting families are not immune to feeling the pressures to provide. Are you bogged mate? confronts the realities of depression in the bush and say it’s a lot like getting a vehicle bogged in the mud so they’re saying to blokes, “don’t choose a permanent solution for a temporary problem – you wouldn’t burn your tractor just because it got bogged.”

“It might have been just a sticky patch of the road or paddock where the vehicle stopped moving,” says an Are you bogged mate? spokesperson.

“Maybe they needed low range or to winch themselves out, but what happens when blokes get themselves properly bogged, when it’s down to the running boards, sitting on the chassis and they’re not getting out easily? That’s the kind of bogged we mean.

“Country blokes are facing challenges like never before but it doesn’t mean blokes need to get stuck in the mud. There are plenty of places to go to get a tow and it takes guts to admit you’re bogged. We’re making sure men get connected with the right hands to pull them out.

“I’ve spent my whole life working in rural and remote Australia and always around country blokes; working with them, for them, and beside them. My father was one, my brother is one, and most of my dearest friends are country blokes. I’ve always worked in male dominated occupations and that certainly doesn’t make me special but I believe it has given me a good understanding of rural men and it has definitely given me a deep and profound respect for them,” said the spokesperson.

“So, when I see country blokes facing challenges like never before, I need to say something because I know none of them will. I’m talking about rural men’s mental health and more specifically, rural male suicide. Yes, that mongrel black dog that sneaks in when you least expect it, grabs all of your rational thoughts, buries them somewhere you can’t find them, and without you or those close to you noticing, it gradually pulls you into a hole, a bog hole.

“As I recently watched a massive line of four-wheel drives file slowly in the park reverently outside a small country town church, something in my heart changed forever,” he said. “They emerged, dressed in their Sunday best; some of these blokes I didn’t even know owned a tie. It was a really busy time of year but they stopped all of those important farm jobs to come and say goodbye and pay their respects to a mate who decided to hand in his time sheet way too early.

“The statistics are everywhere, Australian males between 15 and 45 are the highest risk categories for suicide.

“Men are three to four times more likely to take their own life than women and the further you move from the coast into regional, rural and remote Australia, the more that figure climbs.

“The experts will tell you that it’s due to ‘the isolation’, that ‘men don’t talk about emotions’, that ‘they don’t know how to express feelings’… well I call bullshit! I’m no medical expert,” he continued, “but I know country men and I know that they’re the toughest, hardest working, funniest, most sincere, totally dependable, thoroughly genuine people you will ever meet. So don’t sit in your university office in the city and tell me that you know rural men.

“As a rule I don’t think rural men are challenged by ‘the isolation’. I think most actually thrive on it, they enjoy the peace and tranquillity that surrounds them. They enjoy the time they spend tending the earth and its creatures. They are nourished and challenged by nature and all it’s hardships. Everyone needs interaction with other people but isolation only really becomes a major problem when coupled with depression.

“It’s true that rural men ‘don’t talk about emotions’ and ‘don’t express their feelings’ in the same way that inner city society expects them to. Rural men are never going to be like their soft, pink-handed city counterparts – no disrespect intended – but country blokes aren’t going to join a men’s group or catch up with mates to discuss their feelings, relationships, or finances over a double decaf latte at some hipster café that has kale on the menu. That’s just not how they roll.

“Rural men let off steam – release emotions – differently,” he said. “They play footy, go camping, shooting, fishing, ride horses or dirt bikes, go water skiing, have a few beers with mates, they might even throw a few harmless punches on the footy field. These are just some of the release valves for rural men and they need to be supported and encouraged to do whatever it is that gives them release – my message to blokes from the bush is, don’t let the pressure build up inside.

“There are multitudes of factors that lead to depression in rural men – droughts, floods, rising input costs, falling commodity prices, pressure from banks, family pressure, feeling compelled to stay on the property, and so on,” he says. “Today rural men and particularly farmers have additional pressures to previous generations. They’re expected to be soil scientists, agronomists, hydrologists, accountants, meteorologists, chemical experts, mechanics, engineers, marketers, environmentalists, and the list goes on.

“Add to that a society that tells them they need to share 50 per cent parenting of their children, support their partner in her career, share the housework, and all the other gender equality stuff. Before anyone yells at me for dragging women back to the 1950s, I’m merely comparing the dramatic changed in just one generation. Sorry fellas, you aren’t getting out of cleaning the dunny that easily!

“The suite of skills needed to live and work in the rural sector has never been greater and yet the divide between city and country has never been bigger. Never before has agriculture been so scorned by city dwellers who often view farmers as environmental vandals and poisonous food producers. And if all that isn’t enough pressure for rural blokes, what about adding a sick child, the loss of a loved one or a marriage breakdown into the equation? I don’t think we need another study to find out why rural men are struggling.

“With millions spent on men’s mental health services, the suicides keep happening. I don’t have all the answers but all we’re saying to blokes from the bush is, don’t burn your bogged vehicle. Treat depression as you would a bogged tractor. When you’ve finished swearing, praying and walking around in circles scratching your head knowing this is as bad as it gets, all you can do is ask for help… even if your mates laugh about it and bring it up for years.

“Depression is certainly no laughing matter – just like being bogged, it’s not funny when you’re in it – but when you slowly move your way out of the bog hole there are people ready to help. Don’t choose a permanent solution for a temporary problem. We have already lost too many good men.”

Other organisations you can turn to when bogged include, Lifeline, We’ve got Your Back, Beyond Blue, Tie Up The Black Dog, and R U OK?

To find out more about Are You Bogged Mate? go to: areyouboggedmate.com.au/

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