New mental health funding welcomed

Gavan Herlihy.
Gavan Herlihy.
Further government funding to support mental health initiatives in rural communities has been welcomed by the Otago Rural Support Trust.

The $600,000 joint funding from the Ministry of Health and Ministry for Primary Industries was the second phase of the Rural Mental Wellness initiative. The first phase was announced a year ago with $500,000 funding.

The new funding would help strengthen local networks for farmers, workers and families in rural communities.

It would provide more suicide prevention workshops and employ co-ordinators to work with Rural Support Trusts, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said.

Otago Rural Support Trust chairman Gavan Herlihy said the funding would allow the trust to better use the four people it appointed and trained with the first funding boost.

It would be used to support local initiatives that raised the awareness and importance of the general field of farmer wellness.

Traditionally, the trust's role was confined to assisting farmers handle and recover from major adverse climatic events.

But there was an increasing need to help support the mental health of farmers, their families, employees and others in rural New Zealand, Mr Herlihy said.

The first tranche of funding last year was run by DairyNZ.

The Otago trust ended that contract on June 1.

It signalled it would rejoin the programme once there was more clarity on the shape of it.

That had now happened.

He believed having the programme being run by MPI would be a "positive'' from the Otago trust's perspective.

The trust looked forward to working with MPI officials over the next couple of months to develop programmes that were tailored to Otago's needs.

Federated Farmers health and safety spokeswoman and Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand council member Katie Milne said farmers were "doing it tough at the moment'' and a responsive system was needed to provide expert support quickly.

"We're pleased this programme is continuing into the next phase. The longevity and sustainability of this important programme is a top priority,'' she said.

sally.rae@odt.co.nz

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