Farm suicides spur 'desperate' call

Katie Milne
Katie Milne

Farming groups are pleading with stressed workers to speak up if they need support in the wake of a series of deaths of young men across the country.

The Herald on Sunday reported four farmers had died suddenly in the past few weeks, including a Hamilton City Young Farmer member, and a popular rodeo competitor in Canterbury. Both were aged in their 20s.

The coroner's office has confirmed one of the deaths was being investigated.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne broke down in tears while speaking to the Herald, saying she was becoming increasingly desperate to remind farmers help was available.

"Our future of agriculture is being failed somewhere here and we have to figure it out as quickly as we can,'' she said.

"I've just been picking my brains. I don't want to beg or plead with people about reaching out, but it is about that desperate.''

New Zealand Young Farmers chief Terry Copeland said the sudden deaths were a blow as the group had just finished a series of workshops across the country, educating people on how to recognise and support others and themselves.

A number of farming groups spoken to suggested a mix of weather worries, election uncertainty and Christmas would put farmers under stress.

"There's never a simple cause. Young men in particular are really poor at dealing with emotional issues,'' Mr Copeland said.

The deaths affected the wider rural community and people felt it keenly, he said.

The number of suspected suicides in New Zealand has climbed three years in a row, with provisional figures released by Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall in August showing 606 people are thought to have died by suicide between 2016 and 2017.

Of that number, 143 were aged between 20 and 29.

Between 2007 and 2015 there were 185 farm-related suicides.

Ms Milne encouraged farmers to look out for their friends if they knew they had gone through a personal challenge, for workers to spend time around people and to give themselves a break.

"It's OK that we can't get it right all the time. We have weather that conspires against us and all sorts of things that are out of our control. There's always thing that we can't fix. We need to let these things go,'' she said. 

Need help?

Healthline: 0800 611 116
Lifeline Aotearoa: 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
General mental health inquiries: 0800 443 366
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757






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