Hi, I am Brad Millsteed a grain grower from the Midwest of Western Australia, member of the #Grains100 and alumni of the Grains Social Leadership Program (GSLP). I am also behind men's health community group #6Bs.
GrainGrowers have asked me to be involved in their initiative to try and normalise the conversation around mental wellbeing and share some of my advice and thoughts.
In this article I hope to encourage growers to take their mental health and wellbeing seriously by linking how we take care of soil health with mental health.
I am passionate about increasing an awareness of blokes' wellbeing with the #6Bs, to try and get blokes to reconnect with themselves and their mates again and overall make the world a bit of a brighter place.
Both soil health and mental health shouldn't be neglected
We all know how easy it is in our industry to become completely focused and fixated on the task at hand, often to the detriment of ourselves and our nearest and dearest.
We often say that we can’t afford the time to do something outside of the job at hand, maybe the question is can we afford NOT to make the time for our family or our mental wellbeing?
Putting some time into ourselves, and something that we really love to give ourselves a break away from the task at hand, can be so beneficial to us on so many different levels.
We are all guilty of “batting ourselves down the list” a lot, in preference to other loves in our life, which in ag we are all guilty of saying that we love our work. Often the priority list will be children, spouse, parents, work, then ourselves.
If we can try to prioritise the time to put ourselves first, we will be able to pour more effective energy into the other important things in our lives.
It isn’t being selfish, it’s taking time to invest in our own wellbeing.
Both machinery maintenance and mental health maintenance are critical
As grain producers, we are very machinery reliant and their performance day in and day out is critical to our success. Our bodies and minds are the same, they need to be healthy and functioning well for us to perform at our peak as well.
We aren’t shy in getting professionals to help maintain our machinery, and we shouldn’t be hesitant to do the same to ourselves and involve professionals in our own wellbeing so that we can keep on performing at our best.
There is nothing wrong with having a professional involved in our wellbeing to keep us maintained and functioning to our optimum.
We are human and not a machine and require some special maintenance at times. Food, rest and sleep help fuel us, and are so important to us functioning efficiently.
Both soil health and mental health require investment
The ag industry is well aware of the value of soil health.
We are very mindful of soil nutrition and how soil health can affect production which affects our livelihood and profitability. Same goes for our bodies.
We all need to feed ourselves well, and not throw things out of balance by over indulging or having too much of something in our systems.
With our soils, we are very mindful of keeping everything in balance, and we should be happy to do the same with our bodies and minds.
We would never begrudge a diabetic insulin to keep themselves in balance, the same should be of those who may need some medication to keep their minds balanced too. We are very fortunate to live in a time and place where medication and help is available.
The course of medication might not need to be for a long period of time, just long enough for balance to return and clarity of mind to come again. Time and space to build up a personal management program that will see you healthy again and performing at your peak will put your life and big picture back into perspective.
We are all very mindful of maintaining ground cover for soil health, not trying to overstock or push production too hard on soils that are prone to erosion and leaving them bare and exposed to the elements.
This is the same as our minds, they are prone to be overloaded and this can lead to some erosion happening there.
A check-in is good for our community, businesses and mental health
If we can all take the time to try and occasionally offload some of what is going on in our worlds, this helps save our mind from becoming overloaded.
It's important to find and have those couple of really close and good #Gotcha4Life mates so that we can share what is going on, professionally and personally.
We in ag are unique in sharing our wins and losses with the rest of our industry. I couldn’t imagine a group of retail shop owners getting together to discuss the secrets to their successes like we do in ag production.
We need to get better at sharing our personal wins and losses too, so that they don’t keep building up and aggregating to cause erosion within our brains and the chaos that can follow.
We also need to get better at asking our mates how they are. We wouldn’t drive pass a mate's farm and see livestock in a crop or a bad weed outbreak or a tree down on his fence, without making contact with him to let him know.
We can do the same thing when we realise that something is amiss in their “normal” routine, it doesn’t take much to check in on him and make sure he is ok. A simple message or phone call.
But then also to have the ability to ask again if the answer we receive doesn’t quite seem right, to ask that question again and maybe again, can be very important.
Are you listening?
We all have two eyes, two ears and one mouth, and should be used in that ratio, for really effective communication particularly with a mate who you might be worried about. Who knows, you might just save a life. If you’re the one being asked, your mates aren’t intruding, they are genuinely concerned for you.
You aren’t being a burden by talking to them, they would all prefer to listen to an hour of your troubles, than sit through a funeral and eulogy of their mate taken too soon by the demons.
Don't let things bottle up
We all have more support than we will ever know, the hardest part is connecting with that support, particularly in the “heat of battle” when the internal war with the demons is raging.
That is the hardest time for anyone to reach out for help, which then makes the catch up often to help keep that top paddock destocked so important.
Letting go of little bits often, is a vital skill.