Stockinbingal farmer John Harper has a simple message when it comes to mental health awareness but one that has worked during his decade of travelling around talking to blokes, and which has now reached a national audience on ABC documentary Man Up.
Mr Harper, who has been diagnosed with depression and lifted himself out of a dark hole with the help of family and mates, says people need to focus on the ‘three Ls’.
Look – See what is going on around you with the people around you.
Listen – If someone sounds full of doubt, they most likely need help.
Let someone know – If you’re under pressure, talk to someone. If you see a mate struggling talk to them.
While this sounds simple, Mr Harper said talking about what is on your mind can make a world of difference.
Man Up is hosted by radio and TV personality Gus Worland and follows his mission to find out what it really means to be a man today and how the average Aussie bloke is actually faring.
Alarmingly, male suicide rates are three times that of women.
While the stereotypical Aussie man is strong, stoic and tough as nails, it appears the pressure to ‘harden up’ in times of adversity may be making some men crack.
A common belief is that regional communities are worse off when it comes to depression and anxiety as there are fewer help services, however Mr Harper puts forth another point of view.
Speaking to the Cootamundra Herald, he said people need to think basic before they think big and instead of looking to governments and doctors to fix issues surrounding mental health, people should look at what they can do in their own backyards.
He points to the flooding currently wiping out crops around Forbes.
Farmers with no crops to harvest this year will be left with no income and plenty of time to think about that fact while others more fortunate are sitting on a header getting their own crop off.
Mr Harper encouraged people to think beyond their wallets when it comes to helping.
“Charity is not just giving money; the original definition of charity it to give of oneself, and there are plenty of ways we can help and let those doing it tough know we are thinking of them,” Mr Harper said.
He encouraged people to think outside the box and do something to help during what will be a tough Christmas period for those not too far from Cootamundra.
“We often help when it involves our closest friends but we need to think bigger than that...I think there is a big role for ordinary people in mental health,” he said.
Promoting communication is a message Mr Harper has long been driving home, and one which does not come easily to a lot of country blokes.
“In the country, we say actions speak louder than words, but when it comes to mental health the action we need is words,” Mr Harper said.
He is inspired by the positive feedback surrounding Man Up and the fact it is encouraging blokes to talk.