Cycling for good of rural health

Ashlee Paulsen (left) and Minna Wilson stopped off in Kaikoura during their ‘‘Making Waves,...
Ashlee Paulsen (left) and Minna Wilson stopped off in Kaikoura during their ‘‘Making Waves, Riding Bikes’’ tour. PHOTO: DAVID HILL
Two North Island farmers’ daughters have been riding the wave to support farmer mental health.

Ashlee Paulsen and Minna Wilson have cycled through Canterbury and Otago over the past two weeks on their journey from Cape Reinga to Bluff to raise awareness of farmer suicide.

"We are both farmers’ daughters and we grew up on sheep and beef farms in Central Hawke’s Bay, so we are aware about rural mental health, but it’s not talked about," Ms Paulsen said.

"But since we’ve been on the road so many people have come forward and shared their stories."

The pair, who have been close friends since they were toddlers, decided to take time out from their busy jobs on the Covid-19 response frontline.

Ms Paulsen is a registered nurse at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, and Ms Wilson is a senior adviser in the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 Directorate in Wellington.

"We decided to bike around the country and why not do it for a great cause?" Ms Paulsen said.

"I’ve been working on Covid since February, doing 10 to 12 hour days, so to get this time away from work has been really good for our mental health," Ms Wilson said.

The public response has been overwhelmingly positive, aside from motorists at the top of the North Island who were less than friendly.

"We are having a lot of fun and meeting lots of people," Ms Paulsen said.

"The people we’ve met in the South Island have been so friendly and the lollipop men and women have been so cheerful."

The pair have been backed by support crews.

Ms Paulsen’s parents provided support through the North Island and Ms Wilson’s parents are following them through the South Island.

Along the journey, the pair have been raising funds for the charity Surfing for Farmers.

"It’s the perfect thing for farmers," Ms Paulsen said.

"They don’t have to talk about their feelings. They just get out on the waves, have some fun, meet other farmers and have a barbecue.

"Community is the most important thing. Being around people and making connections."


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