Stockinbingal farmer and shearer John Harper started the Mate Helping Mate program way back in 2006.
He started the project at the family farm in Stockinbingal initially to help other farmers in district who were like himself, battling drought and not dealing with the stress that came with it.
From that initial idea by John the project has now gained acceptance nationally and continues to help people in rural areas.
John has travelled extensively in Australia talking about his own experiences with depression and mental health and the value of getting together with mates and talking.
As the concept grew the demand for John’s time increased greatly and he found that he was unable to attend all organised events and talk to everyone who needed to hear his message.
With this increased demand for his time it was decided to expand the communication network of the Mate Helping Mate program.
Recently a series of podcasts were produced to help raise awareness of mental health and mateship in the bush, allowing for a wider
section of the community to have access to John’s message.
These podcasts focus on the real life experiences of people from the bush and their battles with depression, how they dealt with the issue and the lines of help that were available to them.
The stories are raw and help podcast listeners understand the depth of the problem of depression in rural communities and the way people can help their mates overcome the complex issues of mental health and
One of the biggest problems blokes in the country still face is an increased sense of isolation and loneliness, especially as individual farms increase in size and the number of farmers decrease in an area.
John Harper’s philosophy is that mates care about you and enjoy your friendship in the good times and true mates care about you, and support you in the bad times.
Helping blokes in the bush identify when these bad times are, either for themselves or their mates, is at the heart of what the Mate Helping Mate program does.
Just like their city mates, men in rural and regional Australia are struggling with mental health issues every day. The number of people affected is pretty similar in the country and the city.
However, there are some alarming statistics about mental health in the bush.
Farmers are twice as likely as city blokes to take their own life.
At the moment there is a series of six podcast episodes which features stories of farmers, business owners and families who live in
remote and rural communities with John hosting each podcast.
The series is described as a guide to mental health and provides strategies from other farmers and people from rural communities who have used the strategies to build resilience when struggling in rural and remote communities.
“I thought it was about time we had a yarn about how bloody tough it can be out in the bush and how we can help ourselves and our mates,” John said.
Listening to these podcasts might help you and your mates.