Written by Ben Rockett, Engagement Manager and Mark Vayro, Business Development Manager with specialist agricultural insurer Achmea Australia.

South-East Queensland beef farmer Mark Vayro is facing one of the many difficult decisions brought about by drought: whether to sell off his herd at a fraction of its value or pay high prices to buy in feed. Whichever option he chooses, he loses; for now. He knows he’s navigating challenges that are temporary: things will get better. Until then, he’s focused on navigating through another drought and keeping his family and his family farm going.

A farmer at heart, Mark also works for specialist agricultural insurer Achmea Australia and sees many farmers facing similar challenges. Mark knows the current reality is difficult, and it will likely get more difficult for a while, but he also knows that a positive mindset and social connection are vital tools to help work through the tough times.

Connection is a remedy for and a protective factor against feeling overwhelmed by stress.

Psychologist Dr. Ben Rockett specialises in trauma recovery and advocates the advantages of fostering social connections during adversity. By actively supporting your community, you simultaneously nurture your own mental well-being.

Together, Mark and Ben share some insights on how you may identify stress within yourself and others. Because if you can recognise the signs, you may more easily be able to support yourself and others.

Stress within yourself and others might show up as:

  • Irritability or aggression;
  • Feeling a loss of control;
  • Sleep interruption;
  • Fatigue or exhaustion;
  • Sadness and tears;
  • Unusual memory or concentration difficulties.

What you can do to support yourself:

  • Be aware of how you’re feeling – check in with yourself.
  • Be active (not just work active) and see if others can join you for regular walks or exercise.
  • Exercise moderation in alcohol consumption.
  • Prioritise your sleep – insufficient sleep will further raise the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your system.
  • Take time each day to be still and focus on your breathing – just a few slow and deep breaths may be enough to positively influence your focus.
  • Watch your favourite comedy – laughter brings wonderful benefits to your mental and physical health

What you can do to support others:

  • Be aware of who you haven’t heard from in a while – reach out and connect with them.
  • Prioritise social connection – go see them, call them, get them over for a cuppa.
  • Help someone else in your community – it can lift your focus from your own situation and provide a range of psychological benefits, including a stronger sense of belonging.

By fostering a strong sense of connection through community support and solidarity, farmers, along with their families and communities, can find the strength needed to face the day-to-day challenges and look forward to better times ahead.



About Ben Rockett
Dr Ben Rockett, PhD is a psychologist whose practice is focused on trauma recovery. As a dedicated children’s mental health advocate, Ben is deeply involved in voluntary community mental health enterprises that support children, schools, and families across NSW. He is also the Engagement Manager with Achmea Australia, performing an organisational psychology role to help deliver on the insurer’s vision to protect and enhance a sustainable future for agricultural communities through helping Achmea Australia’s employees reach their full potential.

About Mark Vayro
As a third-generation landowner, Mark Vayro runs a cell grazing beef cattle and fodder production system in the Lockyer Valley. Mark is also a Business Development Manager with Achmea Australia to deliver on the insurer’s purpose to keep farmers farming. As a passionate rural mental health advocate, Mark is a big believer in giving back to the community that supports him and is actively involved in volunteering including as a rural fire fighter and other community organisations.


The views expressed in this article is that of the authors. This content is general in nature and may not be appropriate for your personal circumstances.