HAGLEY farmer Jock Gibson is inspiring the next generation of young Tasmanian agricultural workers to proactively speak up, share thoughts and seek help.
Together with Kristy MacFarlane, Jock, 23, has developed a new initiative called Shed Sessions – bringing people together to chat about mental health. They have already organised several catch-ups at Hagley and Bridport, with up to 15 people meeting in the shearing shed for a chat and a BBQ.
“This is all about getting people to talk, rather than sweeping their problems under the carpet and hoping they will go away,” Jock said. “We have been completely overwhelmed by the response from people that may be struggling or just feeling like they can’t cope.”
One of the key reasons for Jock organising these events was the tragic loss of his close friend Caitlyn Loane, a 19-year-old North-West farmer who took her own life 12 months ago. Caitlyn had engaged more than 50,000 followers on TikTok as she showed what life was like as a fourth-generation farmer in Tasmania. “She was boisterous, always happy and smiling, and loved life, but she would never take help from anyone and was very independent,” Jock said.
“The Shed Sessions have been unbelievable — both for me as part of my grieving, but for so many people from all walks of life. “We are amazed at how many people are constantly reaching out to us. “We find at the sessions that as soon as someone says something, it snowballs. People open up and there are often tears as people get things off their chests and realise people are there to listen, not judge.” Financial pressures, dealing with trauma, struggling with young families and health issues are some of the reasons that people have attended the first Shed Sessions.
Jock said while promoting the events through Facebook, Instagram and TikTok tended to reach a younger demographic, it was heartening that older farmers were also turning up. “We recently had an older man reach out, who had been farming all his life and was in financial difficulty. It was great that he could talk to us and then seek the professional help he needed to hopefully get back on track.” Jock is open to see where this initiative goes. “I have always got a lot of satisfaction out of making people smile,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish what we went through on anyone, but for now I can still work on the farm full time and run the Shed Sessions and hopefully assist people to open up and get help.”
Anyone interested in attending a Shed Session should connect with the private group on Facebook: Shed Sessions – Mental Health Chats or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• This story appeared in the latest edition of Primary Employers Tasmania’s Strive Newsletter, which is printed and posted to members three times a year. A full copy of the newsletter can be downloaded from: https://www.primaryemployers.com.au/news