Thursday, July 7, 2022

Getting on top of depression

Five farming organisations are getting together to find ways to lessen the impacts of depression on rural families and communities. Members of Rural Women NZ, Federated Farmers, Dairy Women’s Network (DWN), Young Farmers and AgResearch met in Wellington in mid-February to discuss the issue. “We decided the issue was too important to not work together on it,” Rural Women NZ executive officer Noeline Holt said. A further meeting will be held in early April.

A ‘Feeling Rotten’ online survey, which closed at the end of February, run by Rural Women NZ, had attracted a high number of responses and early ones showed most respondents felt anxious due to financial stress. Time pressure and the feeling of being overwhelmed were also high on the list.

“On a positive note, people are telling us that friends and counselling services have an important role to play in helping them through difficult times,” Holt said.

She said farming seemed to offer people enormous highs and lows “and nothing in between”.

“There is a huge amount of capital in resilience but anxiety can very easily tip into depression.”

Federated Farmers began its ‘When Life’s a Bitch’ campaign on rural mental health at the start of the year. The campaign is supported by AgITO, Farmsafe, Beef and Lamb, Rural Women NZ, Vodafone, Rural Support Trusts, the Rural GP Network and Dairy Women’s Network. A page on Federated Farmers’ website is dedicated to rural mental health and farmers have been sent wallet-sized ‘When Life’s a Bitch’ cards in the mail which feature a picture of a dog and phone numbers to ring including Lifeline and 111.

“Rural Kiwis are coming forward, wanting to share their stories and to help those who are struggling,” Federated Farmers health and safety spokesperson Jeannette Maxwell said.

“It is heartwarming to see fellow Kiwis reaching out to each other, given the disproportionate number of suicides in rural New Zealand.”

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