ANIMAL Health company Zoetis has committed to raise another $100,000 through its partnership with beyondblue, the independent, not-for-profit organisation working to reduce the impact of anxiety, depression and suicide across Australia.
Working closely with rural Australia through interactions with farmers, rural merchandise outlets, veterinarians and their families, Zoetis has helped raise $200,000 in the past two years by donating $5 from each sale of the company’s livestock, pig and poultry vaccines and drenches.
The same process will apply this year, for product sales between August 1 and October 31.
The money raised goes directly to the beyondblue Support Service, providing advice and support for people 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The Support Service is there for people day and night – via phone, web chat or email – whenever they need someone to talk to,” said beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman.
“It is a free, potentially life-changing service for many people, especially those who don’t have friends, family members or support services close by. It is entirely funded by generous donations from the community and amazing partners like Zoetis,” Georgie said.
Demand grows for the service year-on-year.
“The reality is there are twice as many suicides in remote areas compared to urban areas,” Georgie said.
Zoetis staff travel more than two million kilometres each year to Australia’s most remote locations supporting farmers, agricultural stores and veterinarians with needed animal health supplies.
Zoetis vice president, Australia and New Zealand Lance Williams said the company and its staff were very passionate about improving mental health in rural areas.
“We’re proud to once again partner with beyondblue to tackle these very real issues affecting rural communities and farmers,” he said.
Mr Williams said he had recently shared with his team an article that appeared in the New York Times about Australian rural communities, about the paradox – that despite the overall state of the Australian agricultural industry being quite favourable, the country’s mental health is still a major issue in these areas.”
“So, we want to thank people in advance for supporting this cause and our drive to help those in need.”
The beyondblue service costs on average $48 per contact, and people can reach out to the service’s counsellors by phone, webchat or email. That means the $200,000 donated by Zoetis to date, with help from the local community, has helped 4166 people at a critical time in their lives.
In addition to the Support Service, beyondblue’s online resources and support can help people turn their lives around, regardless of where they live. More than 100,000 people use beyondblue’s online forums every month, tapping into an online peer support network. These forums offer people connection and support from others who have been through similar experiences and can reduce the feeling of isolation and loneliness for many. The forums are monitored by a team of moderators who are trained to identify people at high risk of distress and suicide and help them to access the support they need.
More than 1 million people in Australia experience depression and more than 2 million are living with an anxiety condition. On average eight Australians take their lives every day and there are an estimated 200 suicide attempts every 24 hours.
“We are grateful to have the ongoing support of Zoetis and look forward to working together so that more Australians can access the mental health support they need,” Georgie said.
John Sudholz made his debut playing for South Melbourne in 1966 and was the club’s leading goalkicker for four consecutive seasons. After making the finals in 1970, John made the decision to return to his family’s farm in Rupanyup, Victoria.
While working as a farmer, John continued to play for Rupanyup for three seasons before retiring from the game. Since then he has coached junior football teams and served on various committees.
John started to ‘feel the pinch’ mentally in the early 1980s, particularly during the drought of 1982.
“I wasn’t sleeping, I felt uptight, I was crabby with my children and my wife. I felt resentful towards the community who were always asking me to do things and I couldn’t say no.
“I would get all uptight about minor issues, making it feel like they were major issues when they weren’t.
“My personality had changed from being a happy-go-lucky guy to someone who was very aggressive towards everyone,” he said.
In 1988, John was hospitalised as he felt completely broken down and had no confidence. It was a long journey home after treatment. His mental health issues cost him his first marriage. He believes the people closest to someone with a mental health issue get hurt the most.
He was nervous about returning to his community. Even a trip to the main street was a big effort because he was worried about what people would think of him.
“Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to understand how it would be so difficult for a bloke like me to walk into the local newspaper agency and ask for the morning paper. And yet it really took a lot of courage for me to lift myself up to just do that.”
But it wasn’t long before one of the locals wandered up to welcome him home. It was a simple gesture which made all the difference.
“I’m sitting there in the passenger seat, beside the supermarket actually…., and he walked up to me and just said, “Good day, jumbo.” He said, “It’s good to see you back in town.”
I’ve never forgotten that. Like, he probably has, but I haven’t. And it was probably something that’s just stuck in my mind after all those years.”
Nowadays, farming is still John’s business, but more in an advisory role with the modern methods that the younger generation employ in the 21st century.
Sport is still a major social activity in small rural communities, even though the population is declining.
John has continued his involvement in sports, although the pace has slowed a little, and he now regularly participates in club bowls and golf croquet.
He has been a regular guest speaker at Probus, Lions, Rotary and church meetings on mental health issues.
As a beyondblue Ambassador, John speaks of his experiences of depression, its impact on his life, family, farming and life today – and the great changes he’s seen in rural farming communities with men now talking more openly about depression and seeking help. He encourages other farmers to get serious about looking after themselves.
“Groups like beyondblue and Lifeline have made help far more accessible for rural people and the local health services have been very good in distributing information at local faming field days, with advice on mental health issues.
“Women are much better at communicating – they will sit and have a cup of coffee and talk about fair dinkum issues where blokes will go to the pub and not talk about what is worrying them.
“Everyone in this world has two or three mates who are true mates and will do anything for them. They will sit and talk and listen to your point of view. When you are feeling the pinch, you need to go and talk to these mates.
“It’s vital that we all get serious about looking after ourselves both mentally and physically. These days I visit my doctor for a health check-up about every three months. So I’ll go and have a check-up, go to my GP in the next three weeks or a month and just get things checked out.”