A new program aimed to equip people with tools and strategies to help support people who are stressed or anxious has been launched by a psychologist with more than 25 years' experience in the agriculture industry.
Psychologist David Cherry created The Occasional Counsellor and said being aware of how to support people who were stressed had proven useful after the unusual challenges the industry had faced in the last 12 months.
"I've worked with people through drought and bushfires, and you always know the outcome," Mr Cherry said.
"You know a drought is going to be over when it eventually rains.
"But this year is different. The outcome isn't clear, it's causing labour issues and uncertainty in the market that have never been experienced before, and this is adding to the complexities of the work and the feelings of distress."
Agriculture Victoria is providing free sessions of The Occasional Counsellor training for anyone who works in horticulture or interacts with people in the horticulture industry in the course of their work.
Mr Cherry said the training was ideal for anyone who found themselves needing to provide support, whether they were a farmer, manager, agronomist, vet or financial adviser visiting a farmer or worksite.
The session teaches simple skills about how to listen, how to reduce feelings of uncertainty and isolation and how to provide constructive support.
"It's about encouraging someone who is experiencing stress to focus on goals, outcomes, interests or concerns as opposed to feelings," Mr Cherry said.
"This helps them look at the present and then into the future, rather than focusing on the past."
The sessions help people identify issues that are beyond their responsibility and control and learn how to be comfortable with this, as well as when they should refer people to professional help.
Agriculture Victoria's director for horticulture services Sze Flett said the training was part of AgVic's support for the industry as it continues to meet the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
"People in rural communities naturally want to help but sometimes they don't know how," Dr Flett said.
"This training will ensure more people working in horticulture have the confidence they need to lend a helping hand when it's required."
The upcoming free, three-hour webinar training sessions are on Monday, May 17 from 1pm-4pm, and Thursday 3 June from 10am-1pm.
For information and to register visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/support-and-resources/event-listing.