There is no other job that requires you to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and Louise O’Neill, founder of Farm Life Fitness, believes farming should not be the exception.
The sports therapist and mental health coach has spent the past six years helping men and women in the bush to shift their mindset and challenge the unconventional paradigms facing farming communities.
Her passion stems from a personal level, having seen the impact it’s had on regional communities.
From her farm in Denmark, Western Australia, Louise operates Farm Life Fitness. This year her passion, commitment and positive impact was recognised, being named the WA Finalist for the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.
Louise shares with us her very personal story which was the catalyst to starting Farm Life Fitness.
This episode shares personal moments and a sensitive discussion around depression and suicide. For some this may be difficult to listen to or have a triggering effect so you may want to skip this episode. You can phone lifeline at any time on 13 11 14.
Here are a few snippets of Louise from the podcast.
Winning the award and putting forward for it made me dig really deep into my why. I always knew my why but it was this award, the process and talking to people which has brought it more to the surface.
I did touch upon it [the breakdown] beforehand but not as much because there are other people involved. My husband plays a huge part in my why and so I wanted to make sure that he was happy with that.
[Telling the story] is just so emotional that I don't think you can prepare yourself - sometimes I can tell it and it's okay, other times I can tell it and my voice is quivering and I have a bit of a tear well up, and then other times it's just not the right time to tell it because I can't.
There is this perception that farming is a 24 hours a day, seven days a week job, and I just don't think that is the way it should be.
I have witnessed first hand what happens when that is the case. Not only have I seen my friends and community members mourn another life that's been lost because of these unhealthy paradigms because people can't see a way out, but it happened very, very close to my heart. It happened to me and my husband.
It got to a point just before we were about to welcome our first son into the world. It should have been a really amazing time for us, a really happy time, but it wasn't. It was one of the most financially stressful, emotionally stressful, physically stressful times of our life.
We were getting ready to seed and a piece of machinery broke down. I went to meet Warren in the paddock and I was looking down into a packet of chips that I was holding out to him, and he wasn't taking this packet of chips; I was just in my own world.
And then I looked up and I saw tears coming down his face and I was frozen. I couldn't quite compute what was going on, and it was only when he literally dropped to his knees and said, ‘I can't do this. I can't keep going on like this.’ that I realised this is happening right here, right now for both of us.
He didn't know how to get himself out of this hole, he didn't know where to go, and he was torn between working all the hours to stepping back and being involved in me being pregnant. I was really sick whilst pregnant, and fighting my own battles at the same time. It just all came to a head right there [in the paddock].
We had nowhere to go and it was just the two of us in this paddock crying together.
We were together, but we were so apart.