Mental health support needed for rural communities

More targeted funding is needed to support rural communities with mental health challenges.

Responding to the recent release of the Chief Coroner's annual suicide statistics, which shows the highest rate of suicide in Canterbury, North Canterbury Rural Support Trust chairman Doug Archbold said he would like to see more support in rural schools.

Canterbury farming families have been coping with drought, earthquakes, storm events, flooding and low commodity prices in recent years.

''I think both of the major political parties are aware there appears to be a shortfall in funding for mental health,'' Mr Archbold said.

''We hear of anecdotal evidence that there are ongoing problems with young children being traumatised every time there's an aftershock, so it's ongoing.

''We are living in difficult times and children are growing up in this environment - and it's pretty well known that it can be particularly challenging for those going through puberty from age 11 to 16 years, as sometimes their emotions get mixed up.''

He said in this environment it was crucial rural schools in Canterbury had access to counselling services, a resource not normally available in primary schools.

Maintaining rural GPs had always been a challenge particularly in the Hurunui district, Mr Archbold said.

''We have quite a few locums and with farmers it's really important that they have time to establish a relationship with their doctor.''

Mr Archbold said in the last two years $500,000 in funding has been allotted to the rural support trusts throughout the country to support rural mental health programmes, with the North Canterbury trust able to employ a wellness officer Bridget Frame.

The ''Good Yarns'' workshops, for example, have been organised to educate vets, rural bankers, contractors and others who worked with rural clients to be aware of changes of behaviour which could be signs of mental health issues.

The Canterbury District Health Board has appointed a rural counsellor under the Rural Canterbury PHO who has been ''extremely effective'', Mr Archbold said.

He said the trust was also concerned about the financial pressures on farmers as they attempted to recover from drought and the November earthquake.

''There's a lot of farmers with less stock and the banks are a bit cautious about lending to help them rebuild their stock numbers.

''But it will help if it's a reasonable season and we get better returns for wool and lamb.''

Need Help?

Healthline 0800 611 116
Lifeline Aotearoa 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Alcohol Drug Helpline 0800 787 797
General mental health inquiries: 0800 44 33 66
The Depression Helpline 0800 111 757

-By David Hill

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