Farmers need to address the effect of stress

Jeanette Maxwell
Jeanette Maxwell
Reducing farmer stress remains a high priority for Federated Farmers.

Last year, Federated Farmers called for a more proactive approach to combat depression and the high suicide rate in the rural sector. Health safety spokeswoman Jeanette Maxwell said progress was being made.

Federated Farmers was working with the rural GP network, Dairy Women's Network, district health boards, local rural support trusts, stock agents and other groups to produce an action plan and strategy to reduce stress in rural areas.

''It's about getting that network together. It is a big job bringing all those groups together, but the progress being made is really positive,'' Mrs Maxwell said.

''We have had acknowledgement for the work we are doing from the Associate Minister of Primary Industries. They have acknowledged that there's an issue and that we can't keep ignoring it.''

Last year, Statistics New Zealand released figures showing there were significantly more rural suicides per head of population than in urban areas, with 16 out of 100,000 people taking their own lives in rural areas compared with 11.2 for every 100,000 people living in towns and cities.

Mrs Maxwell said several organisations were working to reduce rural sector stress, including the Dairy Women's Network with its Pit Stops and Mental Health 101 programmes, and the Rural Canterbury PHO (primary health organisation).

''The issues haven't changed. But at least there is an acknowledgement and that is a major step forward in itself.''

The hardest part in managing rural stress was getting farmers, particularly men, to talk about the issue, she said.

Recent reports of farmer suicides in Canterbury highlighted the need to speak out and Mrs Maxwell advised farmers to check on neighbours.

''Farmers need to talk . . . It [stress] won't go away if they don't talk about it and there is support available. You don't have to deal with it alone.''

- David Hill.