News

Helping others to cope

By Sophie Baldwin

There was a time in Warren Davies’ life when he thought there was no way out.

Depression and anxiety had taken their toll on the dairy farmer who sold his herd and walked off his own property during the millennium drought.

Shame and guilt had taken control and his mental health consequently spiralled out of control.

‘‘I was a bloke and a farmer — I was tarred with a double brush and there was no way I thought I needed help. I had so much grief and loss because I felt everything I had ever worked for was slipping away,’’ Mr Davies said.

He was truly in a dark place.

But in the end it came down to two options.

‘‘I could continue to be bitter and end it all, or I could choose to become better — and thank God I chose the better path. I owed that to myself and I owed that to my family,’’ he said.

Mr Davies bought his own property when he was just 22 years old, pursuing the family dream to become a dairy farmer.

‘‘In 1993 our farm was flooded. We then had a family break-up and then the drought came along and even though we had a strategy to deal with it all, the drought just went on and on and it took my mental health with it.

‘‘I still miss having my own farm but I don’t miss the mess that came along with it. From the romantic side, I was my own boss and it was my whole life. I built it up from nothing and put my heart and soul into it — and that will always be disappointing,’’ he said.

But those years no longer define him.

Mr Davies has chosen to learn from his journey and now shares his story Australia-wide through theunbreakablefarmer.com.au

The Unbreakable Farmer came about after Mr Davies shared some of his story at a workshop.

‘‘At the start I wasn’t interested in sharing, but when I did someone said, ‘you sound like an unbreakable farmer’ — and that’s where it all started.’’

Mr Davies began sharing more and more and people began asking him to come and speak. He has now spoken to farming groups and communities across the country and he said while the individual stories were often different, there was always a common theme.

‘‘I started to see power in sharing my journey, and my aim is always to create a safe space.

‘‘I am just a lay person but I do have access to some professional people behind the scenes.

‘‘I just want people to know it’s okay to not be okay, and no-one has to travel their journey alone,’’ he said.

Mr Davies still deals with his own anxiety on a daily basis, but thankfully the depression has gone.

However he acknowledges everyone’s recovery is different.

‘‘Communication and connecting to your own community is important, whether that be family, the local football club or something else. Let your support network help you and don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need it.’’

Today Mr Davies is so glad he chose to improve his life.

‘‘My eventful life has tested my resilience, persistence and determination,’’ he said.

‘‘It has had a massive impact on my young family, relationships and finances but it has made me the man I am today — The Unbreakable Farmer.’’

■If you or someone you know needs support, please phone Lifeline on 131 114 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978.

Those dealing with financial hardship can phone Rural Financial Health Services Victoria on 1300834775 for a free consultation about making the right decisions for your business.