Nudity Campaign Aims To Strip Away Stigma Of Depression Among Farmers

By David Konow 02/13/18

With rates of depression and suicide growing among farm workers, people have decided to raise awareness by baring it all.

Farmer in ripe wheat field planning harvest activity

Many people are often afraid of coming forward about their issues with mental health, but a group of farmers in Australia and New Zealand have been going without clothes to help take away the stigma surrounding depression. The idea being, if we’re not afraid of getting naked, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for help with your mental health.

As reports, depression has been hitting rural communities down under. Farming can be a stressful and lonely profession. One kiwi farmer Tristan Mitchell says, “They can start at five in the morning and are still doing the paperwork at 10 at night. In recent years they’ve had to deal with the ups and downs of dairy prices.”

And with many farmers living far away from civilization, it can also be a lonely profession where it’s hard to connect with people and find help. This report also states that Kiwis in rural areas have a greater risk of committing suicide than those who are in the city.

So once The Naked Farmer debuted, photos of farmers in the buff came flooding in. Ben Brooksby, who created the site, says, “My slogan is ‘it takes guts to take your gear off, but it also takes guts to talk about mental illness.’ I’m trying to spark the conversations around the world so people talk about mental illness.”

Creating The Naked Farmer has been a personal crusade for Brooksby, because, as he explains on his campaign's official website, he suffered from anxiety as a teen while his family farm went through 10 years of drought. Then his family home burned down, and Brooksby had to take the reigns of rebuilding it when he was 22. “I know from personal experience that your state of mental health can be turned around through positive change even when the worst happens.”

In the wake of The Naked Farmer, another group, the West Melton Young Farmers Club, got together with Daisy Chain Trust, a mental health organization, and put together a calendar to raise funds for farmers in need of mental health support. Tina Rae, who founded Trust, also wants to set up a retreat where farmers can go when they’re feeling depressed. “They can come for a short to medium stay and get access of counselors or just be with others who are experiencing ‘a moment.’” Rae wants to raise $125,000 to set up this retreat.

Depression among farmers is not just a growing issue in Australia and New Zealand. According to statistics in The Guardian, one farmer in Australia dies by suicide every four days, and in the UK, one farmer a week commits suicide on average. In a number of states in the U.S., the suicide rate among farmers is almost five times more than people living in the general population.

As Jeffrey Menn, a doctor who is also a farmer that treats other farm workers for depression, told the New York Post, “There is particularly a lot of depression in rural society.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.