23 Jun 2023

Treat youself like you would a broken tractor, says Rural Support Trust

From Country Life, 7:14 pm on 23 June 2023

'Ease up and take one step at a time' is one piece of advice to farmers and growers suffering after calamitous weather this year.

People struggling with their mental health often try to work harder, hoping that will relieve the pressure, says Rural Support Taranaki chair Mike Green.

"You're better off slowing down," he tells Country Life.

Chair of Rural Support Trust Taranaki Mike Green.

Chair of Rural Support Trust Taranaki Mike Green. Photo: RNZ/Leah Tebbutt

Green doesn't believe New Zealand farmers have fully weathered the storm just yet.

"Like any industry, you get some challenging times and I think we are heading to one of those at the moment," he says.

Rising on-farm costs and compounding regulations are all adding to the stress for farmers and others living rurally.

"One of the big things is the community taking ownership. A lot of times people will talk about Johnny not turning up at the squash club, or Steve at the golf club.

"Instead of just making the comment, go and find out why they are not there. Because a lot of cases that is the early signs of issues going on - withdrawal."

Green said over the 43 years in which he had been part of the farming sector, needs have changed. 

He put it down to awareness of mental well-being. What once was a taboo subject had now come to the forefront.

"If your tractor is buggered, you'll go and get it fixed. If your animals are crook you will go and get the vet. But what do you do if you are not well yourself?

"A lot of people just bury it."

The earlier people can pull themselves out of a negative space, the easier it is to move forward, Green says.

Yet he says people struggling with their mental health often try to work harder, hoping that will relieve the pressure.

Usually, the reverse applies.

"You're better off slowing down even to the point of writing a list.

"Instead of trying to do 10 things at once, have a list of 10 things and just do one thing at a time. Then you are achieving something in your own mind by ticking one thing off at a time."

It will take some farmers 10 years to recover from the effect of recent weather events which had continued throughout the year, Green says.

The number of farms suffering from recent severe weather as well as the damage incurred outweighed funds raised by Rural Support Trust.

"There have been suicides. It is unfortunate and is something we just don't want to see happening.

"It is important people take notice, take care of each other and be aware of each other and aware that there is help out there."

The National Council can receive donations to Rural Support Trust directly to its bank account. Details can be found at the bottom of the webpage.

The Rural Support Trust is a charitable organisation that relies on donations and sponsorships.

Where to get help:

  • Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

  • What's Up: free counselling for 5 to 19 years old, online chat 11am-10.30pm 7days/week or free phone 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 11am-11pm Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

  • Healthline: 0800 611 116

  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

  • OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.