Reducing farmer stress remains a high priority for
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
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.