Ruinous droughts and the disruptive Covid-19 pandemic has recently brought the importance of mental health – especially in our agricultural communities – into sharp focus. Whitehead Industrial Psychologists offer an effective solution for agricultural businesses and communities to manage their (and their employees’) mental health.
One battle that can be celebrated as a victory is the fact that Western Cape dam levels are continuing their upwards trajectory, thanks to healthy rainfall. Many farmers are in for a better harvest this season, and perhaps for the first time in four years, the agriculture community has reason to smile.
But the war is not yet over. Some regions, including the Klein Karoo and Northern Cape, are still caught in a crippling drought with many farmers struggling to keep their families and animals alive as revenue falls and debt piles up.
As a result, farmers and producers are still in danger of succumbing to a sense of hopelessness and depression.
Gift of the Givers, an NGO that has been assisting drought-stricken farmers across South Africa, has recorded a bout of suicides among farmers since 2014 due to drought. Several more farmers had suffered heart attacks due to the stress of no longer being able to provide for their families, their workers and their flocks, herds or crops.
A neglected priority
According to Agri SA’s Agricultural Drought Report, emotional support to farmers is as important as financial aid, fodder and boreholes. “Producers’ livelihoods are under severe pressure and it impacts on their state of mind,” says Agri Western Cape CEO Jannie Strydom.
Of all the agricultural sectors in South Africa, the wine and grape-growing industries have been hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis. With nearly 80 wineries and 250 grape producers facing possible closure within the coming months, producers and growers are reeling.
Enter Whitehead Industrial Psychologists, a company dedicated to supporting and maintaining the well-being of management and employees by developing various intervention strategies for businesses.
“When considering the impact of the drought disaster and Covid-19 pandemic on our thoughts, emotions and behaviour, it’s clear the well-being of management, community leaders, employees and community residence must now, more than ever before, be the top priority of all businesses and communities,” says Industrial psychologist and co-founder Kobus White.
Resilient life rhythm
Diaconia – an initiative established in partnership between Whitehead Industrial Psychologists and the Western Cape NG and VG Church Synods – is committed to the implementation of a ‘Resilient Life Rhythm’ series of workshops in farming communities across South Africa.
Disaster support through drought relief and Covid-19 interventions is top of mind for these two churches, who recognised the need for a pastoral response to the mental health of the community.
According to Kobus the strategic goals of this partnership are to equip business and community leaders with an awareness of how others cope through times of crisis, and to develop new values and relationships to support and treat each other with respect and empathy.
These workshops offer a general holistic view on mental health, says Kobus. During the sessions, participants are made aware of their feelings, thoughts and emotional responses to challenging situations. “We look at various strategies how companies look after their personnel and protect their mental health,” he says. “Management and employee well-being should be a top priority for all businesses.”
Whitehead Industrial Psychologists have developed the following interventions to support and maintain the well-being of management and employees, their businesses and communities:
Facilitator: Mental Health Workshop
During these workshops, staff and community leaders are quipped as mental health facilitators for their business and community.
The outcomes are:
- Better knowledge and understanding of mental health concepts and models,
- Better knowledge and understanding of an event’s impact on the thinking, emotions and behaviour of all staff and community residence,
- The learning and application of sound facilitation skills,
- Identifying mental health issues in the business and community environment,
- Basic support of employees and community members’ mental health and general well-being,
- To act as a change agent in order to establish and maintain a healthy and sustainable mental health culture in the business and communities.
General: Mental Health Workshop
The focus of this workshop is to equip management, community leaders, employees, and community members to understand their own behaviour during difficult times, develop a pro-active attitude towards mental health, and accept responsibility for their own self-care plan. The outcomes of the employee workshop are:
- Better knowledge and understanding of what mental health entails,
- Better knowledge and understanding of an event’s impact on personal thinking, emotions and behaviour, and its impact on a person’s own mental health,
- The recognition of personal needs and the development of a self-care plan,
- Maintaining a healthy mind and life rhythm.
Organisational Diagnosis: Mental Health
The purpose of the organisational diagnosis is to measure dimensions of mental health that represent the overall mental health in a business:
- Physical Health of Employees
This dimension looks at the prevalence of physical symptoms among employees. For example: physical pain or discomfort, physical changes and health risk factors.
- Mental Health of Employees
This dimension focuses on the level of emotional responses and behavioural aspects among employees. For example: state of mind, stress, anxiety, depression, morale and job satisfaction.
- Organisational Health
This dimension examines various aspects within a business. For example: working relationships, workload, training and development, performance management and role ambiguities.
Following the diagnosis, the findings will be summarised in a management report with recommendations for possible interventions in support of a healthy organisational mental health culture.