Mental health services often difficult to access

Terry Copeland
Terry Copeland
Accessing mental health services remains a major barrier for many rural communities, Federated Farmers chief executive Terry Copeland believes.

It was ''getting harder and harder'' for many rural people, some having to travel long distances or simply missing out.

The challenge was not helped by a nationwide shortage of GPs, he said.

The Chief Coroner's provisional suicide statistics released last month showed the number of suicides to the year ended June 30 were the highest on record at 685, and at a rate of 13.93 deaths per 100,000 people.

Young males aged between 15 and 29 years were the most at risk, followed by middle-aged men aged 45 to 54 years.

While the rural suicide rate was yet to be released, it had consistently been higher than urban rates and 20 farmers took their lives in the year to June 30 last year.

But this was the tip of the iceberg, as it did not include attempted suicides or those who struggled every day with mental health and related issues.

''A statistic I heard recently was that something like one-third of all medical issues are mental health based, but it doesn't reflect what our health system offers,'' Mr Copeland said.

''And when you consider our suicide rate is nearly twice the road toll, we need to be putting more attention into mental health.''

Mental illness remained ''a taboo subject'' in many rural communities. But it did not need to be that way.

''It's hard enough getting rural men to go to the doctor, let alone talk about mental health, which is still a taboo subject.

But he was hopeful Parliament was starting to get the message after the launch of a cross-party mental health and addictions wellbeing group last month.

Organisations like Rural Support Trusts and initiatives like Farmstrong, a partnership between the Mental Health Foundation, FMG and ACC, were encouraging farmers to ''look after themselves'' and ensure they got enough sleep, ate well and had some recreation.

Need help?

Need to talk?: 1737, free 24/7 phone and text number

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 443-366

The Depression Helpline: 0800 111-757

Youthline: 0800 376-633, txt 234 or

What’s Up (for 5-18 year olds; 1pm­ to 11pm): 0800 942-8787

Kidsline (aimed at up to age 14; 4pm to 6pm weekdays): 0800 54-37-54 (0800 kidsline)

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