During a public speaking course, the instructor asked Warren Davies to create a superhero name for himself.
Hold tight - we’re checking permissions before loading more content
After the meeting, another participant came up to him.
After hearing Mr Davies tell his story during the session, this other person said, “you should call yourself the unbreakable farmer.”
Much to Mr Davies’ dismay, it was way better than what he had come up with.
Deciding to make lemonade with this lemon, he got home and hopped on Google.
The unbreakable farmer was up for grabs.
He immediately registered the name for himself, and so began his crusade.
Rather than a cape and spandex, Mr Davies opts for a button-up shirt, some chinos or jeans and a pair of RM Wiliams boots.
Today, he speaks to rural communities nationwide as a mental health advocate.
The Kyabram man returned to his roots in October, with sessions across Greater Shepparton focused on flood recovery.
Mr Davies has previously held talks in communities affected by other disasters such as floods, droughts, bushfires and the pandemic.
But he didn’t always have a superhero alter ego.
Before, Mr Davies was a farmer.
But let’s go back to the start.
He grew up in Melbourne and, by all accounts, did not like his catholic all-boys school.
He wasn’t a very good student, and he struggled with extreme bullying from classmates.
“By the time I got to year nine, I was failing school,” Mr Davies said.
“I well and truly understood the daily impact of the bullying, but not the long-term impact.
“The underlying theme to my story is not doing anything about stuff.
“I never asked for help, never reached out, never told the teachers and never told Mum and Dad about the bullying, I just accepted it.”
At 15, he moved to Kyabram and shortly after dropped out of school to become a farmhand.
Mr Davies all of a sudden acquired freedom, responsibility, and a sense of purpose thanks to the change of scenery.
But his early childhood trauma remained unaddressed.
Two years into his agricultural journey, a flood hit his family farm.
The stress of that event triggered unprocessed emotions and mental health struggles from Mr Davies’ past.
That marked the beginning of his mental health journey, although he’d previously dealt with low self-esteem and anxiety, he just hadn’t fully recognised it.
Subsequently, he faced more challenges, including a family dispute on the farm, which intensified the downward spiral.
That’s when he decided to take on a significant debt and embark on a 10-year plan for a fresh start, owning his own farm.
Everything was going well for a while, but then a severe drought struck, further affecting his mental health.
He focused entirely on keeping the farm operational, closely tying his self-worth to it.
When Mr Davies started to struggle with the farm, it affected his ability to care for his family, leading to feelings of guilt and shame.
He spiralled into isolation and exhibited signs of severe mental health issues.
It led him to a dark and frightening place, questioning whether he even wanted to continue living despite having four children.
The Davies family made the devastating decision to walk away from the farm, not only because of Mr Davies’ rock-bottom mental state but also due to financial and emotional exhaustion.
Moving to South Australia led to a significant loss of identity because Mr Davies had always defined himself as a farmer.
“It’s the unbreakable farmer now, but really, it should’ve been the broken farmer,” Mr Davies said.
It was time to restart.
Exploring different paths, he ventured into real estate and took on various roles on farms.
It was in the previously mentioned public speaking course that Mr Davies discovered his true calling as a mental health advocate.
With a newfound sense of purpose, he envisioned himself addressing a captivated audience at Crown Casino.
Initially, things didn’t unfold as he had expected.
He was speaking in front of significantly smaller crowds than he had expected.
But one night, Mr Davies spoke to a young girl after one of his presentations.
She shared her own mental health story, striking a chord with Mr Davies.
He realised if he could connect with a 15-year-old girl, he could connect with anyone.
So he changed his approach completely, shifting his aspirations from Crown Casino to focusing entirely on rural communities.
“Since then, everything’s changed,” Mr Davies said.
“I realised that’s (rural communities) my tribe, my people, that’s who I need to help.”
Just two months after his perspective changed, he found himself speaking at Crown Casino.
Mr Davies feels his story resonates with rural people because it isn’t unique.
“The things I’ve struggled with, all farmers have gone through it,” he said.
“The floods I went through, it was about knee-deep.
“I’ve spoken to people who had to get rescued off the roof of their houses by helicopter.
“And then you think, well, what’s my story got on that?
“But it’s not about that, it’s about how it affects you.”
According to Mr Davies, the label of "resilient" that rural communities often carry can be both a blessing and a curse.
He said because members of rural communities often soldier on through all kinds of hardships, they often don’t get the support they need, making it difficult to admit they are struggling and need help.
“There’s still a stigma, even though it’s gotten a lot better in recent years,” Mr Davies said.
“By telling my story, it permits others to share theirs.
“It’s all about inspiring conversations.”
Mr Davies plans to persist in raising awareness about mental health in rural communities, with a series of talks scheduled in Strathbogie as his next endeavour.
He plans to share his story through various mediums, including his podcast ‘Beyond The Back Paddock’, and is also considering the possibility of publishing a book in the future.
You can check out Mr Davies’ website for his podcast and information about his talks here: www.theunbreakablefarmer.com.au
If you or anyone you know requires crisis support, contact Accessline on 1800 800 944, Lifeline Australia on 131 114, BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.