17 Sep 2021

Rural people supporting rural people - the Rural Support Trust

From Country Life, 9:21 pm on 17 September 2021

When adversity hits the rural sector, people often turn to the Rural Support Trust.

Neil Bateup has been involved with the Trust since its inception and says thankfully, people are now more open to asking for help.

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 Neil Bateup Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

High-profile New Zealanders opening up about mental health have encouraged farmers to pick up the phone and ask for help, says the chair of the Rural Support Trust's national council.

Farmer Neil Bateup was a founder of Waikato's Rural Support Trust in 2004.

He says in its early years, people would contact the Trust about practical problems.

"There were mental health issues on-farm then. There were people under stress but I think it's become a lot more normalised since John Kirwan, Mike King and Doug Avery started doing roadshows talking about it (saying) 'it's ok to ask for help'.

"People are more ready to ask for help and that's marvellous."

There are 14 independently-run Rural Support Trusts across New Zealand and each will help farmers, growers and other people deriving their income off the land, navigate their way through adverse events, financial hardship as well as employment, well-being and relationship issues.

"We don't actually give advice," Neil says. "But we sit down with people and help them find the pathway to a solution. We send them in the right direction and then walk alongside them as they are getting that help to make sure they are getting the assistance they really do need and that it's making a difference.

"So we're not experts in anything. We'll never profess to be."

Last year the Waikato Trust received 300 calls from people asking for support.

Click here to visit the Trust's webpage or call 0800 787 254 to reach the Trust.