Communication key in beating adversity for growers

Face-to-face conversations key in maintaining mental health

Learning & Development
Eyre Peninsula grower and grain broker Steve Whillas places great value in talking. PHOTO Loren Revell-Karutz

Eyre Peninsula grower and grain broker Steve Whillas places great value in talking. PHOTO Loren Revell-Karutz


Grower tells workshop that communication counts when dealing with fire or other hardships.


South Australian grower Steve Whillas firmly believes that face-to-face conversations are an important part of maintaining good mental health as growers face tough times.

Whether people are dealing with the effects of a fire, drought or other hardships, he places great value in talking. GRDC has produced a video with a quick overview of 'The mental health continuum', which may also be a useful resource for those experiencing these circumstances.

Steve was a presenter at GRDC 'Harvester Fire Workshops', held across South Australia and Victoria in October last year.

The grain broker and South Australian Eyre Peninsula grower, who was burnt out in the 2005 Wangary fires that saw 780 square kilometres of land being burnt, has partnered with Mentally Fit EP to practice what he preaches and talk about his experiences.

Mentally Fit EP aims to help people to take charge of their lives and to build a mentally fit community through increasing people's knowledge of support options.

"We're just trying to get people to communicate and open up," Steve says.

"The biggest hurdle I find is that people going through a hard time put up a wall. They don't want to talk, let alone attend community events.

"But I've realised communicating is key to helping people heal.

"Also, partners play a key role in encouraging farmers to talk."

Steve says he blames the rise of social media for reduced numbers of people attending community events, local agricultural walks, workshops and other similar gatherings.

But it is these events that he wants people to reconnect with to create and build supportive communities.

"We are losing the simple art of communication where you just pick up the phone, or talk to someone face-to-face," he says.

"Since I have been talking about my experiences and bringing speakers in to talk on mental health issues, I have had half a dozen growers from the Eyre Peninsula come up to me and tell me that they're either on, or about to get, medication to help their mental health.

"They can share their story with me because I've put myself out there as someone who's willing to talk about men's mental health."

More information: Steve Whillas, 0458 852 268,