This article first appeared in our sister publication, Dairy Farmer.
Changes in physical appearance, changes in mood or changes in behaviour are key signs the Rural Support Trust says to look out for if someone is under stress.
“Watch out for signs like if they are usually well groomed but seem to have dropped their usual standards, or maybe they’re always at a certain event each week but haven’t shown up for a while,” says Maria Shanks, Rural Support Trust (RST) general manager.
“It doesn’t always mean something is wrong but it’s good to check in and see if they’re doing okay.”
They know not everyone will respond the first time and helpers should not feel like they have to fix anything. The important part is to encourage them to reach out to the trust, which is what they are there for. They are available to help anyone in any situation, but Kiwis can be stoic and reluctant to reach out.
“It is an ongoing challenge. Sometimes people feel their problem isn’t big enough or others are doing it worse, but if it’s causing stress, ask, that’s what our team is there for.”
Matamata sharemilker Michael Holman knows all too well how hard it can be to ask for help, but he has asked for support from the trust on several occasions and is grateful for the response.
“I always knew they were there, and a few people suggested it when I was going through a relationship break-up a few years ago,” Holman says.
“I got in touch, and they helped me understand it was going to be okay, which was what I needed. I didn’t have my family around me, and they became my family.
“They also helped with financials, including connecting me with someone in Fonterra when I was concerned about shares and dealing with it all.”
He appreciates that they are there at the drop of a hat and reassure him it will be okay.
“When you’re struggling you don’t want to talk to people to sort things out, but they call you and get things sorted.”
And recently he wandered along to an event that the RST was hosting at his local PGG Wrightsons, where they had arranged Stay Well to do wellbeing checks. He had his blood sugar and cholesterol tested and his blood pressure measured. It turned out to be unhealthily high.
“They recommended I go to the doctor pretty quickly, so I did, and I’ve been on medication for a few weeks now and I’m thankful they picked it up.”
He wants to see more people reach out for help when they are struggling.
“Farming is a pretty cool industry to be in and the world needs us, we just need to realise it’s okay to ask for help.”
There are 14 RSTs across New Zealand and when someone reaches out, they are connected with a facilitator who works with the person one on one. The facilitator will connect them to professional help if that is what is needed and remain their ongoing support person.
Although they are known for supporting health and wellbeing, they offer support in many areas. People reach out due to financial pressure, employment issues, succession tension, or animal welfare, for example. During the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, when a farmer was given notice they were asked if they wanted RST to get in touch.
“We want to get involved early, most people reach out themselves or ask someone to contact us for them,” Shanks says.
“We encourage people to suggest that we are available to help if they recognise someone under stress or work with us to establish the best approach for someone they are concerned about,” Shanks says.
They are ready to help during adverse events, along with other industry bodies, providing one-on-one support, running community events and often assisting with the enhanced Task Force Green initiative, which can help with things like clean-up.
There are a lot of ways people can get involved with the RST. There are a range of opportunities to help, and they welcome anyone who wants to contribute to the wellbeing of rural communities.
“We want a diverse bunch of people, it’s important the person turning up on the doorstep is relatable.
“Rural life, both farming and growing, will always have its challenges, and our goal is to walk alongside rural people during those tough times and help them come out of it stronger.”
More: Find out about how to get help or how to get involved on their website rural-support.org.nz
Suffering from depression or stress, or know someone who is? Where to get help:
RURAL SUPPORT TRUST: 0800 RURAL HELP
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234