26 Oct 2018

Former Farmer of the Year worked tirelessly before ending his life

1:45 pm on 26 October 2018

A "perfectionist" farmer took his own life after working 18-hour days amid fears of financial collapse, a coroner's report has found.

Coroner Peter Ryan

Coroner Peter Ryan says farmer Paul Renton was stressed and working long hours, before his suicide. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Paul Renton, who was known to many as "Butch", was found dead on 2 August 2017.

Just four months before his death, he and his wife, Marie, won the Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year award.

But a tough few seasons had taken its toll.

Although Mrs Renton was confident they were in a good position financially, Mr Renton was worried and couldn't sleep, Coroner Peter Ryan's report into his death found.

His wife believed his depression and anxiety began during his preparations for the Farmer of the Year Field Day.

"In the lead-up to the competition, Mrs Renton said Mr Renton became stressed about a number of issues around the farm that would not normally have upset him," the report said.

Mr Renton would wake at about 3am, start work at 5am and didn't end his day until 11pm.

Even after the competition, he did not take a break, because he remained busy with paperwork, budgets and end of year accounts.

"His distress crept up on him slowly until the last week to 10 days before his death," the report said.

Mr Renton's GP diagnosed him with moderate anxiety and depression in July last year. A second visit to his GP in August diagnosed him with major depression.

He died the next day.

Hawke's Bay Federated Farmers president Jim Galloway urged any farmer who felt distressed or had mental health issues to seek help.

"There is no shame - for want a better word - in admitting you are having problems, because it's pretty easy for a situation to get on top of someone."

Feeding stock, finances and looking after families were often key worries felt by farmers, he said.

"You can get a bit isolated on your own farm because you don't have a lot a people contact - you can go days, weeks seeing no one other than your family," Mr Galloway said.

"Certainly taking the step to talk to someone, whether it's your family or neighbour or some of the health lines."

Rural Support Trusts chairperson Neil Bateup also urged farmers to seek help if they were feeling stressed, by phoning 0800 787 254.

"There are a lot of stresses in farming and it's important for people to seek help. There is help out there," he said.

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)

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: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

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

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