Mary’s mental health message hits country music scene

Eric Barker, September 2, 2022

A poem written by spray drift consultant and rural men’s mental health advocate Mary O’Brien has been released as a song. Photo: Amy Piesse Photography

A PROMINENT rural mental health advocate and spray drift consultant has this week expanded her resume, with her work being used in a newly-released country music song.

Mary O’Brien has made her mark in recent years as an advocate for rural men’s mental health after she penned an article, which turned into a charity called “Are you bogged mate?”.

Part of her work has been using a poem she wrote after the death of her father called “waiting for the boss” – which was about his dog’s reaction to his passing. The poem has now been turned into a country music song, with award winning artists Angus Gill, Alan Mackey and Anne Kirkpatrick collaborating.

I thought it was a gee up

“I was sitting in a shearing shed in Tasmania, when I received a phone call from Alan Mackey to say they had turned my poem into a song and to see if that was alright,” Ms O’Brien said.

“I thought they were joking at first, I thought it was a gee up. It has completely blown me out of the water because I cannot sing a note, I am so unmusical it is not funny – I don’t think I can even clap in time with the music.

“But they asked if I wanted to listen to it and they emailed the recording to me. And I was really happy with it, they could have taken a poem, which was quite close to my heart, and changed it completely, but they have kept most of the words and summed it up well.”

Ms O’Brien said the song was being submitted to the Golden Guitar awards in Tamworth.

Ms O’Brien said her father passed away more than 20-years-ago and the poem came shortly after that.

“I could hear the front gate of my parent’s house rattling on the morning of Dad’s funeral, just as the sun was coming up before dawn,” she said.

“The dog was just sitting at the gate, watching all the cars coming and going. So I let her in the house yard, where our working dogs are not normally allowed, and she went up the stairs and curled up beside Dad’s boots on the deck.

“She knew something was wrong and every time someone walked out of the house she was thinking it was him.”

Ms O’Brien said she has used “waiting for the boss” in her men’s mental health work.

“I didn’t say how the man died and I left a lot of it open ended and I have mainly used it to show how these effect entire communities,” she said.

“I use some other poems as well, because I think bush poetry is a great way to cut through to blokes in the bush.”

Wall-to-wall speaking gigs

The “Are you bogged mate?” charity started after two men suicided in her home of Dalby, in southern Queensland.

“It put a big ripple effect through the community, these were well known blokes and it was hard watching everyone deal with it,” she said.

“I was what was next and if there was something I could do, when I was sitting down with a bloke, to stop them from doing this and having this impact on everyone else. That’s when I looked into it and started upskilling myself.”

She wrote an opinion article on her spray drift consultancy website about the way mental health is being dealt with in the bush – using “bogged” as an analogy for depression.

“I was doing these spray workshops and they would say ‘can you speak for 15 minutes at the end about being bogged?’,” she said.

“Then ABC Landline did an episode on my work in 2020 and that made the charity explode, I have been very busy since then.”

  • You can read a copy of “waiting for the boss” here













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