Rural communities everywhere continue to lose men to suicide at an increasing rate and many more struggle in silence. The Darling Downs was struck with two such tragedies in a short space of time and the sadness surrounding this prompted Mary O’Brien to speak up about rural men’s mental health and write an article called ‘Are you bogged mate?’. The incredible response to this article from rural men around the world, led to the creation of the ‘Are you bogged mate?’ program.
Although there are many professional services available for counselling and suicide prevention, there is a clear gap in the communication of this topic to men in rural areas. The ‘Are you bogged mate?’ program is working to bridge that gap and breakdown the stigma associated with seeking help while linking them to the services available. What makes ‘Are You Bogged Mate?’ unique is the approach that Mary uses to communicate mental health issues to rural men. Mary was raised on the land and is a passionate advocate for agriculture with a deep understanding of the diverse challenges faced by rural communities, especially the men. Her career in the rural sector has given her a deep respect for country blokes, and more importantly, the ability to effectively communicate and engage with them.
Rural men are a unique demographic, they face complex issues, and they require a very precise approach. What makes the ‘Are You Bogged Mate?’ program different is that it specifically targets rural men, in situations where they feel safe, and the message is delivered in a way that resonates with them. Rural men will open up and talk but you need to have their trust, understand their issues, and speak their language to reach them. Mary has a unique insight into what makes country blokes tick and using a variety of analogies and humour, she explains mental health in a way that is totally new and relatable. Men have frequently told her that she ‘speaks bloke’. The purpose of ‘Are You Bogged Mate?’ is to reach rural men in their comfort zone (usually in their sheds) and speak to them in a language they understand. Mary travels to all parts of Australia talking to groups of rural men about mental health in a new, distinctive, and direct way.
The response to ‘Are You Bogged Mate?’ from men, the rural sector, and the community in general has been overwhelming. It has started conversations, it has linked men to professional services, and it has provided rural men with a new way to ask for help. They are encouraged to reach out if they are struggling by simply saying ‘I’m feeling bogged’, or to check in with their friends and family and ask each other ‘are you bogged mate?’