16 Sep 2021

'Lean on a gate, talk to a mate' campaign aims to break down boundaries

4:55 pm on 16 September 2021

A rural mental health advocate's message for farmers to 'lean on a gate and talk to a mate' is growing traction online - with plans for a nationwide campaign.

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Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Craig Wiggins, who raises awareness around rural mental health, put the call out on his Facebook page last month after a friend of his took his own life.

His video has nearly 50,000 views.

"I thought 'how can we just get things done a little bit better for our farmers that are out there, feeling a little bit isolated, and isolating themselves more.'

"And I remember that one of the best things we used to do was actually to go and lean on a gate at the sale yards and talk to a mate."

Wiggins said lockdowns had left farmers even more isolated than they're used to.

"One of the problems we've got is that farmers have thought that they can always get off the farm if they need to, even though some of them probably don't enough, but now Covid has definitely shut the gate on that.

"I do think people tend to become a little bit isolated, especially in their devices, and they do get connections through that but it's not actually that physical one-on-one connection where you actually look somebody in the eye and see just how they're tracking."

He encouraged people to join local sports clubs or go fishing with friends to get off the farm for a day.

Wiggins said the message had really taken off so he was working to get funding to create a nationwide marketing campaign for farmers to 'lean on a gate and talk to mate.'

"A few companies have wanted to get behind it and try and promote it a little bit to try and just do the advert. So it's been great."

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