Southern PHO health promotion and project co-ordinator Katie Jahnke has developed a new course, ''Rural Life: Keeping the Balance'', to address mental health issues in the rural sector, which is being facilitated by Southland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Lindsay Wright, of Wendonside. The programme uses videos featuring John Kirwan. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
Talking about mental health has always been difficult,
especially for farmers.
However, it has just got a little bit easier with the
introduction of ''Rural Life: Keeping the Balance'', a new
course put together by Southern Primary Health Organisation
health promotion and project co-ordinator Katie Jahnke and
Ms Jahnke, with support from Federated Farmers and the Otago
and Southland Rural Support Trusts, trialled the course
during two pilot workshops, including one in Mosgiel two
The course will be given its first public outing at the
Federated Farmers building in Invercargill tomorrow, with a
second course to be held in Balclutha on July 31 and another
in Tuatapere on August 5.
The two-hour course, which includes group discussions, and
videos from the www.depression.org.nz website
starring John Kirwan, is facilitated by Southland Rural
Support Trust co-ordinator Lindsay Wright, who, as a former
farmer, has had first-hand experience dealing with
He said the resource was developed by Ms Jahnke to help
farmers and other people in the rural sector to gain an
awareness of mental health and stress-related issues, address
the stigma attached to mental illnesses and learn how to
initiate a conversation about the subject, how to listen and
offer help if they were concerned about someone.
''We as rural people need to have our radar out and we need
to ask how things are going,'' Mr Wright said.
Farmers generally were perceived as ''tough nuts'', he said.
''The hardest thing [for many farmers] to do is to ask for
help for the first time.
''They need to learn to say `Help' before they get to a bad
situation and overcome the stigma that goes with mental
The course examines the symptoms of common mental health
disorders, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse
or addiction, as well as warning signs that someone is using
drugs, and where to go for help.
He also outlined how to recognise if someone was considering
''Asking someone if they were thinking of suicide did not
increase their risk of attempting it and it might just save
Many people felt uncomfortable about discussing mental
health, he said.
''We need to treat someone the way we ourselves would wish to
Often, when trust members visited a farmer who might be in
need of help, two members would go: one to talk to the farmer
and one to observe.
''Ask the farmer how things are going and watch the wife's
There were about 500 suicides a year in New Zealand, of whom
25 were farmers, he said.
''That is one rural person every two weeks,'' Mr Wright said.
He said 46.6% of all New Zealanders were predicted to have a
mental health disorder at some time in their lives, with
39.5% having already done so and 20.7% having had a disorder
in the past 12 months.
Mr Wright and the PHO are offering to hold the two-hour
course for groups and organisations that consider it would be
of benefit to their members.