For more than 20 years, Rohan Morris has been part of the transport industry. Before his role in Fonterra’s Farm Milk Collection team in Cobden, Rohan was running interstate, driving weekend to weekend all over the eastern states of Australia and working nights.
When you spend a lot of time driving at night, you come across a lot. As I reflect, there was one night that had a significant impact on my mental health.
“In late 1999, I came across an accident while running express from Sydney to Adelaide. This was a family of four and unfortunately there were two fatalities.
“As the first person on the scene, you do what you must do. I called in the authorities and did everything I could until they arrived.
“Once authorities were finished, and I had done everything I could, I jumped back in the truck and kept driving to get the job done. Like first responders, this was just a part of the job, and you had to move forward, however I still live with this memory today,” Rohan said.
When returning home, Rohan struggled to talk about his experience, and he found that there were very few people he felt comfortable talking to and the resources to support him were limited compared to today.
“I was the type of person that would keep a lot to myself and the way I coped with things back then was to just drive. It wasn’t until years later that I realised the affect it had on me.
“I didn’t open up to my wife, my friends, or my family, and it was a heavy burden to wear. My escape was to drive, and I threw myself deeper into work, which meant I was away from home more. This took a toll on the relationship I had with my wife at time, as well as my daughter,” Rohan said.
While not the sole contributor, Rohan reflects on how him working away so much and not being there for the day in and day out of family life played a part in the breakdown of his marriage to his first wife.
“It took a while and some reflecting on the situation, and while there were other elements at play, me working was a contributing factor.
“However, it took us awhile and we had to put in the work, but I now have a great relationship with my ex-wife and daughter,” Rohan said.
Over the last 24 months Rohan has prioritised his mental health, and he believes this has allowed him to better support those around him.
It’s true when they say, “you have to look after yourself before you can look after others!”
“If I was around family and friends, I was busy and therefore I was okay. But, as soon as I was left alone, I would fall into a hole.
“I would have a lot of work to do at home, but I would go back to bed or sit and watch tv. I just couldn’t pull myself out.
“It got to a point where I started to really think about what was making me do this and look at what was stopping me from getting going. I visited the doctor, and it just went from there.”
Rohan now has things in his toolbox to help with his mental wellbeing and these work for him.
“I think if you eat well, drink well and sleep well, you feel better. I make sure I get plenty of sleep, I do remedial massage, I drink plenty of water, and I prioritise a healthy diet.
“It may seem small, but it makes an enormous difference.
Today, Rohan’s role looks a bit different as he has hung up his keys and stepped into the role of Operations Supervisor in Farm Milk Collection.
“My aim is to ensure everyone gets home safely to their family, every day, and every night.
“Now that my mental health is better, I can better support those around me, particularly our tanker drivers.
“While they don’t do long haul trips the job can still be isolating. I can see when someone in our team is struggling, and I just pull them aside to have to a coffee and a chat.
“Over the last four years, Fonterra has been working towards creating a mentally healthy Fonterra family and fostering a workplace culture that encourages open conversations around mental health.
“This is important, and it has made a lot of resources available to employees. The more we talk about things, the better they will be,” said Rohan.
Given today is World Mental Health Day, Rohan shares his journey with mental health, with the hopes it encourages people to have genuine conversations around the topic.
Rohan has been with Fonterra 18 years, and the resilience and determination he has shown is inspiring. The way he keeps watch and care over his colleagues makes a difference, and as a business we could not be prouder to have him part of our team.
Mental health advocate, and former AFL great, Wayne Schwass has been helping Fonterra to elevate mental wellbeing within its business. If you would like to listen to Rohan speak with Wayne Schwass about his journey - click here.