Community & Lifestyle

Three sheep-farming brothers bring Movember to Avenel

Sheep Central, November 27, 2019

Avenel’s Movember men, from left, brothers Todd Lawrence, Jock Lawrence and Max Lawrence.

MOVEMBER’S simple message to talk about mental health has already had real benefits for three brothers at Avenel in Victoria and the community around them.

Three sheep-farming brothers Jock, 26, Max, 23 and Todd Lawrence, 21, have grown moustaches this Movember to start more conversations about mental health amongst the farming community.

They grew up on the family farm in Avenel with their parents, five dogs, 90 cattle and thousands of happy Merino and crossbred sheep.

Eldest brother Jock started the team ‘Mittagong Mo Bros’ to bring his younger brothers together to help spread the word about mental health in the farming community. He said the move has helped the brothers and their mates talk more freely about mental health and farm issues.

“For our own family, it has been great and has opened us up to talk about how we are going and I we feel we actually got a bit closer through it, just by being more open about what we are feeling.”

As fourth generation farmers, agriculture is in the Lawrence boys’ blood and they all play their part on the family farm. They love agriculture but despite still being in their early 20s know that many farmers go through hardships of drought, financial stress and hard seasons, and understand the importance of farmers looking after their own mental health.

“I don’t normally grow a mo, so during the month I’ve been getting questions like ‘what is that ugly slug doing on your face?’ and ‘why are you growing a moustache?’

“It’s been a good conversation starter and a chance to ask mates how they’re doing,” Jock said.

“All of a sudden you are talking about men’s mental health with people who don’t normally talk about it.

“It really does open up the conversation, that and the awareness is the biggest part I think.”

Middle brother Max has had a moustache for years, but Jock said he too will lose his mo at the end of the month.

“It has to come off.

“I don’t think it will be a special event somewhere, we will probably just get together and have a beer among ourselves…but you’ve given me some ideas,” Jock said.

But Jock hopes the benefits of Movember will continue after the brothers’ upper lip hair hits the floor.

“We would really love to see these conversations continue.

“A lot of the strength of the farming community comes from your family, so I would encourage people to make it normal to talk about ‘how are you going?’ at the dinner table,” he said.

“That trickles through to the community as well.”

Jock would also like to see more resources put into getting children in schools talking about mental health and that should “trickle back” in the families and older people.

“There’s not much ‘real’ talk about mental health in the farming community, and in amongst issues like drought and tough seasons, it’s something that’s often put on the backburner.

“I think because a lot of people just don’t know how to talk about it, it gets put in the ‘too-hard basket,” Jock said.

In Australia, the statistics are shocking. On average, six men in Australia take their own lives every day and three out of four suicides are by men, making it the biggest killer of males under 45.

“I think there’s a stigma about farmers speaking about their mental health as we’re expected to be ‘manly’ and ‘tough’ and mental health doesn’t traditionally fit in with that.

“It’s definitely changing, and the stigma is becoming less and less, but we need to keep pushing that change,” Jock said.

“Farming communities have this ability to rally around each other when times are tough, and there’s so much power in that.

“In the same way that we’d ask a neighbour for help with a fence that has been washed out, it’d be awesome to see people reaching out when they’re not feeling 100 percent,” he said.

“Living remotely, the community of family is so important because they’re the ones you’re around every day and they have the most opportunity to check in and make sure you’re OK.

“In our family, after a long day’s work on the farm, the dinner table is a meeting room; it’s the perfect place to be able to talk about how everyone is travelling, check in on each other and get ready for the week ahead,” Jock said.

“That’s definitely something I’d like to hear about more; farmers talking about their mental health at the dinner table, and for it to feel normal.

“Living on the land can be pretty tough, and I want to keep on encouraging them to talk about things they might be struggling with.”

Movember is the leading charity dedicated to changing the face of men’s health in Australia and around the world. The charity recognises that globally, men’s health is in crisis and aims to reduce the number of men dying too young by 25pc by 2030.

The Lawrence brothers are three of almost 100,000 people raising funds and awareness for Movember this year. They are hoping to raise $2000 for Movember and men’s health. Donate at moteam.co/mittagong-mo-bros

Where to get help

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14 – National 24 hour telephone counselling service for the cost of a local call.
  • Mens Line Australia: 1300 78 99 78 – National 24-hour telephone counselling service for the cost of a local call.
  • Salvo Counselling Line: 1300 36 36 22 – 24-hour telephone counselling service.
  • SANE Australia Helpline: 1800 18 7263; helpline@sane.org
  • beyondblue Information Line: 1300 22 46 36
  • Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800 – 24-hour free telephone counselling for children and young people under the age of 18.
  • Reach Out! Youth Website – www.reachout.com.au
  • Vibe Australia www.vibe.com.au – Allows you to search for services by location
  • Just Ask: 1300 131 114 www.justask.org.au – Lifeline’s rural mental health information service.

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