It was a warm, sunny afternoon in Takaka in Golden Bay.
As daylight beamed through a window only to hit the back of a curtain Wayne Langford found himself bedridden in a cool, dark room. He had been flat on his back every afternoon for more than a week to escape his constant mental anguish.
But this day was different.
“I had like an out-of-body experience.
“It was as though I was hovering above myself looking down and saying ‘what the hell are you doing in bed?’”
It was 2pm on March 18, 2017.
It was his 34th birthday.
“I couldn’t help but think I should be out and about celebrating with people, not stuck indoors.”
Most people who knew Wayne knew this about him: He was in his early to mid 30s, married to Tyler and the father of three boys. He was a sixth-generation dairy farmer who owned and ran his Golden Bay farm. He was a Fonterra supplier and was the Federated Farmers dairy vice-chairman.
On the surface things seemed good.
But underneath Wayne was suffering from depression, an illness he refused to name or discuss because he was worried he would be labelled weak.
It’s a characteristic of the stigma around mental health that has long been prevalent in New Zealand, particularly in rural areas, but that is, thankfully, on the decline.
Wayne grew up on a dairy farm at Kotinga, 5km southwest of the small rural township of Takaka at the northern end of the South Island in the mid 1990s.
“Though I didn’t always think I’d end up in the primary sector,” he admits.
“Initially, I considered teaching and sports coaching but that didn’t last very long.”
In 2001, aged 18, Wayne left the family farm and moved to Canterbury to study for a farm management diploma at Lincoln University.
During that time Wayne started dating Tyler, a fellow student.
“I was handing out pieces of my heart on Valentine’s Day during O-week and she just couldn’t resist,” Wayne says.
Wayne likes to be actively involved with the children and their activities so coaches his son Lewis’ rugby team.
“I thought the depression was a massive beast, something we could never tackle but through YOLO Wayne was able to re-engage and slowly, bit by bit he came back to us.”
For Wayne the project has highlighted the importance of his family and loved ones.
“It’s changed the way I parent.
“I live in the moment more and realise what’s really important. If I say no to something my boys will remind me to YOLO. It’s also had a positive effect on my relationship.
“My wife put down her whole life to help pick up mine and that’s something I will never forget.”
To follow Wayne’s blog search #YOLOfarmer on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Owners: Wayne and Tyler Langford
Location: Takaka, Golden Bay
Farm size: 100ha, 93ha effective
Cows: 250 cows including Jersey, Friesian and crossbred
Production 2018-19: 70,000kg MS
Target 2019-20: 87,500kg MS
WHERE TO GET HELP
Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254
Depression helpline 0800 111 757
Lifeline 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline 0800 611 116
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Industry-specific advice and support for depression in the rural community is available at depression.org.nz/rural
In a life-threatening situation call 111.