“We spend a lot of time and money on physical assets,” Victoria Police Inspector Paul Gardiner told attendees at the Farm Security Expo in Bendigo on Friday.
“Probably what we don’t spend enough time on is ourselves.”
Inspector Gardiner was introducing Beyondblue speaker Angeline Cooper, who was to present on her personal experiences of mental health in the hope of helping others.
“It is something we need to have a conversation about,” she said.
Mrs Cooper credits post-natal depression with saving her life.
It was only then that she found the help she needed to recover, and has been in recovery for 19 years since.
Since being diagnosed with depression at the age of 16, she had experienced a nervous breakdown and known nine people who died by suicide as a result of mental health issues.
“There is hope – never give up,” Mrs Cooper said.
Hers was among several presentations at the expo, which organiser Leading Senior Constable Dan O’Bree said had been beneficial for all involved.
“All the exhibitors are saying it’s been really good,” he said.
About 300 people attended on Thursday, and even more people were turning up on Friday morning.
“I’ve been surprised by how long they’ve been staying,” Leading Senior Constable O’Bree said.
Sutton Grange sheep farmer Mark Collison couldn’t remember the last time he had his blood pressure checked before he was persuaded to take a free heath test at the Farm Security Expo in Bendigo on Friday.
He sat down in the chair at the Bendigo Health stall with a look of trepidation on his face as the staff explained some of the risks of high blood pressure.
“Once you’re over 50 you never know what’s alright,” he said.
Thankfully, his blood pressure was fine.
But Bendigo Health staff said others had returned high blood pressure readings and been recommended to see a doctor about it for the first time, in some instances, in many years.
Health promotion coordinator Pauline Nolan was pleased expo attendees were making the most of the opportunity to check their health.
“Farmers are so busy they don’t often think about going to get a health check done,” she said.
She said the free dental health checks were also popular, with seven examinations on Thursday alone.
Bendigo Health staff were keen to volunteer to be involved in the cause.
Mrs Nolan said emergency department staff attended on Thursday despite a day off, and other staff had rostered their shifts around the event.
“They see it as something so important,” she said.
Federation University criminal justice lecturer Alistair Harkness made the trip to Bendigo Stadium from Gippsland to present on his field of study: Farm crime.
He said previous surveys had shown farm crimes were under reported, with an estimated 50 percent of crimes brought to the attention of police.
Dr Harkness said the factors influencing that figure were numerous, including too much time having passed between the crime being noticed and when it was likely committed; fear of retribution; and a fear farm crimes won’t be taken seriously by police.
“The impact of this is that police don’t have an accurate picture [of farm crimes],” he said.
Those statistics, in turn, influence the decisions people in power in capital cities make with reference to policing in rural and regional areas.
”An offence that happens in a rural area can have an impact in an urban area,” Dr Harkness said.
He said there were about 48 Victoria Police agricultural liaison officers throughout the state and encouraged members of the farming community to get to know them.
If you or someone you know needs support for a mental health issue, call the 24-hour Lifeline hotline on 13 11 14.