A former Upper Hunter resident has told the story of her Quirindi-born husband’s struggle with depression, in a powerful series of rural stories launched by the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH).
Emma Tanner said she hoped her video How are you travelling? would inspire people to check in with each other – and themselves.
The NCFH’s From Inside the Farm Gate series has 16 stories narrated by rural Victorian women who have survived tough times.
In her video, Mrs Tanner talks about first becoming aware of mental health issues on the land after a bushfire ravaged the family property when she was a child living in western Victoria.
“My father had a nervous breakdown, resulting in a hospital admission. This was a taboo subject back then; you didn’t talk about it.”
After young Emma and John met and wed, they began their married life at Wingen and Aberdeen, starting a family and working towards buying land at Murrurundi.
Their happy lives were interrupted by “destructive and consuming” drought.
They moved back to western Victoria, but then Mr Tanner lost his job on a sheep property there.
“We had nowhere to live, no income and two frightened children,” she said.
“There was a grey cloud that fell over John.
“I felt helpless and overwhelmed watching my husband struggle to make sense of things … John realised he’d spiralled into a deep depression and we got medical help.”
Mrs Tanner said her husband eventually recovered, and now living 30km out of Hamilton, Victoria, “mental health and wellbeing is a topic frequently discussed in our household”.
“We often check in with each other: how are you travelling?” she said.
“I put our story out there … with the view that it might empower others to stand back and have a look at what’s going on in their world, and realise that tomorrow’s a new day and things can improve.
“Men, if the engine light comes on in the machinery, they’ll lift the hood and have a look, but for themselves, the ‘engine light’ might not come on.
“It’s a case of having that discussion: saying, ‘I’ve noticed a change’ ... letting them know their own engine light’s on.”
The NCFH said the stories were “eye-opening … inspiring reflection, encouraging communication, and promoting empathy and understanding to the experience of rural farming women”.
About the NCFH and From Inside the Farm Gate
The National Centre for Farmer Health is a partnership between Deakin University and the Western District Health Service.
It has focused on research and evidence-based healthcare for agricultural communities in Australia for the past decade.
Its digital storytelling project, which included workshops, was “designed to give a voice to an often unheard group – Australian rural and farming women”.
“Feedback from this project is supported by published research that highlights; the value of the digital storytelling process for workshop participants; and the value of the messages contained within the stories, for viewers.”
The workshops were supported by the Victorian Women’s Trust, the William Buckland Foundation and Swinburne University.