16 January 2022

The life-changing highs and lows of living on a farm

| Edwina Mason
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Julie Andreazza on her Riverina farm

The 2018 NSW Farmer of the Year, Riverina grain farmer Julie Andreazza, credits her husband, children, GP, and support from Beyond Blue and her friends for helping her overcome significant life challenges. Photo: Supplied.

Riverina farmer Julie Andreazza’s resilience and ability to overcome the challenges life has thrown her way were on show for the world to see when she won the 2018 NSW Farmer of the Year Award.

It was a high point in Julie’s life, and recognition for years of hard work on and off the farm.

What most people wouldn’t have known when Julie accepted the award were the depths she had risen from to get to that point.

In addition to the devastating impact of drought, Julie had experienced grief, mourning and mental illness in the years leading up to the honour, and came out the other side with an inspiring message of courage and hope.

The mother of four adult children, and business partner with her husband of 32 years, says her life first began to unravel when she received the shock news of her father’s death, two days before Christmas in 2015.

Julie Andreazza on her farm

Prolonged drought, the death of her father, an unwell husband all contributed to the deterioration of Julie Andreazza’s mental health. Photo: Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network.

“Receiving that news was like a road train hit me, and my life has never been the same since,” she says.

Not long after, her daughter opened up about a trauma that had happened to her years earlier.

Julie was shattered beyond words.

“It is not something any parent is ever prepared to hear,” she says. “It’s not something you can be taught how to handle.”

While Julie and her husband, Glen, began the process of supporting their daughter and caring for her mental health, the family received a new blow – Glen was diagnosed with myocarditis and was 24 hours away from a heart transplant.

Julie’s own mental health had deteriorated at this point.

“I spiralled into depression, not able to cope with the trauma, grief and pain that had engulfed my life in such a short space of time,” she says.

Julie was diagnosed with depression and suicidal ideation.

“Eventually I was medicated and began treatment with a wonderful psychologist, and I started doing OK,” she says.

Julie credits her treatment team, her husband, children, GP, support from Beyond Blue and her friends for helping her manage these challenges and come out the other side with a new outlook and renewed optimism.

Julie Andreazza and her husband, Glen, on their Riverina farm

Julie Andreazza with her husband, Glen, on their Riverina farm after they were awarded the 2018 NSW Farmer of the Year Award. Photo: NSW Farmers.

“My mental health has taught me to be grateful for every day and to keep trying to be the best version of myself, which is why I applied with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation,” says Julie.

“After being accepted last year, I am now halfway through the national program which trains rural, regional and remote people from all over Australia to be better leaders.

“Because that is my goal now – to lead by example and to pay it forward.”

Julie has been asked to speak at events and on podcasts, sharing her mental health challenges.

“I told my story at the stump at Henty Machinery Field Days, and from there I’ve been part of the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network’s program, ‘Tell it Well’, and was on John Harper’s Mate Helping Mate podcast,” she says.

Julie’s advice for farmers around Australia who are dealing with mental health conditions while trying to juggle the demands of managing or working on a farm is to lean on the people you trust.

“It was so important for me that my family stuck together and supported one another,” she says.

“For people who may not have that, my advice would be to find people who they can call on to help lift some of the workload and burden so you can focus on your health.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time or visit www.lifeline.org.au.

If you are concerned about someone’s immediate safety or wellbeing, call 000.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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