Counsellor: many farmers 'on a knife-edge'

DAIRY farmers experiencing emotional distress because of the industry’s tough financial situation should seek counselling, a south-west rural financial counsellor said.

Vince Thorne, from the Wimmera South-West rural financial counselling service, said he frequently dealt with people in emotional distress and encouraged them to see their doctor to get a referral to a health professional.

Mr Thorne said many big dairy farms in the south-west were on “a knife-edge” because of low milk prices and high costs.

He feared the impact of the present industry crisis was likely to be worse than that of the drought that affected the region late last decade.

Mr Thorne has said at least half-a-dozen dairy farms in the south-west have gone into receivership and dozens more had no money for household expenses after paying farm costs.

Many dairy farmers were not receiving any money from their milk payments because it was all being directed to paying off fodder advances and other farm costs, he said.

Mr Thorne said he sometimes received calls from the spouses of people in distress, seeking help for their partners.

In other cases, he got referrals from general practitioners that people were in distress because of financial difficulty.

Sometimes the financial difficulties had led to the breakdown of relationships.

“I try to work with all the local organisations and refer them to where they need to go,” he said.

“The GP is an important person in that whole mix.”

The health service to whom people were referred depended on the help they needed, Mr Thorne said. “There is a range of people.

“It could be a psychologist, a psychiatrist or a general counsellor.”

People could also ring Lifeline or beyondblue for assistance, he said.

Mr Thorne said he had recently spoken to representatives of the Bendigo Bank about the present crisis in the dairy industry and had found them receptive to supporting farmers in difficulty.

“They seemed proactive. They want to keep things going. They want to work with clients to resolve the situation,” Mr Thorne said.

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