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Neighbours in Need program organises visitors for farmers who need a friendly chat

By Caitlin Furlong, Saturday September 22, 2018 - 08:22 EST
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Darrell Tiemens has a cuppa and a chat with farming mate Jack Freeman. - ABC

It is no secret life on the land can be isolating at times, and when drought bites it can be even harder for farmers to take time off from the farm.

That lack of time for socialising is taking its toll on mental health in many drought-stricken areas.

But one community in north-west New South Wales is taking an innovative approach to tackling the issue.

Concerned about a number of recent farmer suicides in the region, Narrabri Rotary set up the Neighbours in Need program.

Anyone can go online and nominate a farmer they are concerned about, and volunteers will visit them at home for a friendly chat.

For Rotary's Darrell Tiemens, it is a low-key way to tackle an alarming issue.

"We don't do handouts, we focus on wellbeing," he said.

"We have a conversation and a cup of tea and make sure the people around us are okay.

"We also make sure people are aware of the counselling services that are available to them.

"We as a Rotary Club decided that if we could save the life of just one person, then this whole project would be worthwhile."

'Nice to sit down and talk to someone'

Jack Freeman is one farmer who was happy to receive a visitor.

"It's really nice to get a visit from someone," he said.

"You don't tend to get too many visits when it's like this. It's just nice to sit down and talk to someone.

"Even if you don't talk about the drought, a visit puts a smile on your face and makes you feel better."

The Neighbours in Need program is not just about one-on-one visits.

Rotary will also put on community barbecues when several farming families can get together.

"If you think you're the only one out there struggling from the drought, you're going to feel pretty bleak," Mr Tiemens said.

"But if you can get together with other people who are also struggling, it makes a big difference. It's quite therapeutic."

Farmer Philip Firth agrees.

"You find other people who are doing it just as tough as you are or worse, and that helps for sure," he said.


© ABC 2018

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