Graphic: WGYB Champion, Brendan Cullen
Since becoming a ‘Champion’ of our mental health program, We’ve Got Your Back (WGYB) in 2020, farmer Brendan Cullen has been a pillar of support for rural people living in Far West NSW and beyond.
After overcoming his own battles with depression nearly a decade ago, Brendan has been able to use his own experiences to engage in genuine conversations about mental health with others on the land and help link them with appropriate community services.
Graphic: Brendan Cullen
Brendan says it initially started to help those affected by drought, but as the years have gone by, it now includes high interest rates and low commodity prices for sheep, cattle, and wool.
“It’s really tough for people out there at the moment, which can result in self-medicating. It’s not their fault, but then they might lack the courage to reach out and ask for some help. It’s difficult,” Brendan said.
“The WGYB services those people and this peer support has become a game-changer.”
“The WGYB services those people and this peer support has become a game-changer,” Brendan said.
Brendan said mental health doesn’t discriminate and that he helps people from all walks of life, from the young to the elderly, men, and women, who are dealing with issues like drug and alcohol abuse, to body image issues to suicidal thoughts.
“We talk a lot about men’s mental health, and there have also been plenty of occasions when I’ve spoken with the wife or girlfriend who are supporting their other half — but they’re suffering too,” he said.
“It’s really tough for people out there at the moment, which can result in self-medicating. It’s not their fault, but then they might lack the courage to reach out and ask for some help. It’s difficult."Brendan Cullen
In the three years since becoming a Champion, one of the biggest things that has amazed Brendan is the scope of how far-reaching this program has become.
“As well as NSW, I’ve had conversations with people from Western Australia and Queensland, and been able to link them to local services,” Brendan explained.
“Peer-support models are gaining traction, and it does work.”
While Brendan understands everyone’s journey is different, what helped him overcome his battle with depression was creating a ‘toolbox’ of self-care activities like running and swimming.
“That’s really helped me love a different life and take full control over myself,” he explained.
“Being able to pay it back to communities has been huge. I know I can help others, which also helps me too.”
Brendan said WGYB is a wonderful, mighty program and if you, or anyone you know is struggling, to give him or the three other Champions, including Richard Wilson, Jane Martin and Belinda Bennett a call.
“All the Champions have the capacity to sit there and listen – because some people just need an ear, which is so important,” he said.
His biggest takeaway from the program’s success is the awareness it is bringing to rural mental health.
“Previous to being involved, I had no idea of the pain that existed. So, it’s really opened my eyes,” Brendan said.
“We need to make sure funding continues, because it really works.”