Shelly - Accidental farmer and station stay operator, Yalgoo WA

My picture of the struggle in farmer mental health is:

Having experienced the illness and loss of two brothers while I have lived on the station, one of which coincided with Covid lockdowns. I found not being able to visit them and to provide support to them and the family during their illness and subsequent death difficult. It is often impossible to get off the property due to obligations that come with being here and as a result you miss out on a lot of activities including the happier social occasions, that are taken for granted when you live in the city. Yes it is easier than it used to be because of social media and internet options to speak and see loved ones. But it is not the same and in the case of our reliance on satellite for the nbn and telephone there are times when phones and computers do not connect or the connection is so bad that having a meaningful conversation is impossible.

 The lack of medical care, or distance needed to access it is a challenge that is significant. I am fortunately very healthy but the few dental and other issues I have had while here have been a concern. Travelling to care is aside from the difficulty of leaving the property due to obligations on the station. This is particularly a problem for me as a single person who has an elderly dog that has to be taken with me due to the length of time that I would be away from the station. Where to leave the dog while having treatment was then the next problem, especially during summer.

Some of the glimmer/joyful moments that reflect farmer mental health for me:

Prior to coming to the station, I had no farming background, some business experience and some tourism experience so starting a tourism business and learning how to "farm" was a challenge. As a widow, living on my own and having to just find a way to do things was not new but can pose a challenge. I found learning to operate the equipment and do work I had never done before very rewarding. Finding creative ways to overcome challenges, simply doing work that I had to learn how to do on the job and to see a tangible result the most satisfying and healthy outcome for me. Finding solutions on Youtube and just googling how to do things as well as trying to think how would a man approach this job have saved many a day. Initially I might have taken out a shovel to dig a hole whereas I soon learnt to think like a man and use the bobcat to dig the hole! Youtube has also been good for my developing leisure interests as I found online teachers for learning music. So, unlike our pioneers of old who had communication via letters that took six months etc, the connection with the outside world via the internet makes remote and rural life much easier.

Having pets for me is critical for my mental wellbeing, so my dog, donkeys, goats and chickens all added to a happy lifestyle. Finally, being involved in a tourism project which brings guests onto the property for some of the year reduces the social isolation that otherwise would be experienced all year round.

A little more about Shelly:

Having always been willing to take on new challenges in life, this was just another opportunity to see what I was capable of, a chance to learn new skills and an important step in building my new life as a widow.


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