COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Teilah Skye McElvey is looking for volunteers to help farmers affected by drought.
COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Teilah Skye McElvey is looking for volunteers to help farmers affected by drought. Jonno Colfs

Heal from outside, in: Unique project to give farmers a lift

IT might seem like there's no such thing as a day off during drought, but one woman is determined to make a break a reality for farmers across the Southern Downs.

As you drive across the region, with its dry paddocks and hungry cattle, it is clear to see the toll drought has taken on the agricultural industry.

What you don't see, however, is the impact on the hearts and minds of those who tend to the land.

According to Beyond Blue, depression and anxiety can run rife in rural Australian communities during drought, as farmers face barriers to support such as physical isolation and social stigma.

Warwick resident Teilah McKelvey felt like she had to do something.

"I'm no expert but I see the way our town is living in a very negative mindset right now," she said.

"I was trying to come up with different solutions to help with the water situation and I'd sent an email out to James Lister and David Littleproud, which mentioned mental health in the agricultural industry.

"I was just seeking advice and guidance, and somehow Lifeline got handed that letter."

Together with Lifeline representatives, Mrs McKelvey developed the idea for a day of pampering, where women who live on the land could have a day dedicated to them and their own self care.

"If they're mums or they're farmers that's what's coming first at the moment," she said.

"They're not putting themselves first."

According to Beyond Blue, taking time to care for oneself is a necessity, not a luxury, because it can have a significant positive impact on mental health.

Mrs McKelvey put a callout on social media for beauty therapists, hairdressers, nail technicians and massage therapists from across southern Queensland to band together and volunteer their time, effort and skills to those suffering through drought.

"We are hoping to offer a cut, blow dry, some mini facials and mini mani-pedis," she said.

"Once we find people who can help with that, our next step is to reach out to companies to see if we can supply beauty products and essentials for them to take home."

The response was overwhelming, with a number of women from Warwick, Brisbane and the Gold Coast reaching out to lend their services.

Mrs McKelvey said she hoped most of the volunteers would come in from outside of the area because she didn't want to put any additional pressure on local businesses.

"They're already feeling the pinch," she said.

"And if metro guys come out here they'll see what it's really like.

"People in the city are still shocked by how severe the water issue is."

If everything goes to plan, Mrs McKelvey wants to offer the service across two days for around 70 or 80 women.

"I want them to feel like they've been able to have a day's reprieve of the harshness of drought and to leave feeling a lot better about themselves and knowing that support is out there," she said.

"I don't want to feel like they're going this alone."

The initiative is still in the planning process and looking for volunteers.

To get involved, please contact Mrs McKelvey on events@warwickrodeo.com.au



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