Survey offers hope to young rural men

Kathryn Wright hopes the findings of a mental health survey will help her and others to offer...
Kathryn Wright hopes the findings of a mental health survey will help her and others to offer more support to young rural men. PHOTO: MEGAN GRAHAM PHOTOGRAPHY
If you are a young rural male, then Kathryn Wright wants to hear from you.

Mrs Wright, a master’s student at Otago Polytechnic, is undertaking a study on the mental health of young rural men.

She is also a farmer’s wife and counsellor from Te Anau, with a double degree in psychology and sociology.

What she has discovered was there was hardly any academic research available particularly focused on the effects of rural living in New Zealand.

Farmers were exposed to financial problems, stock prices and Government regulations; but the worst statistics were around suicide which was about six times more likely to occur in young rural men than in the general population.

It appeared to be all about interpersonal conflict, something she was hearing through the work she did with that demographic both in schools and privately.

Mrs Wright had been asked why she had not included females in the survey, which she understood, but they were very different, she said.

Young women were more likely to suffer sexual harassment and sexism, some might not get a foot inside the door for a job. But they were also more likely to talk to each other and have better support networks.

Mrs Wright’s experience included her professional work but also as a farmer’s wife and the mother of a 22-year-old shepherd who had been in the farming industry since she had left school.

From what she had seen, the issue needed to be looked at. Rather than seeking help, it appeared young men seem to be "suffering in silence".

Mrs Wright was keen for as many people as possible to complete the survey which was aimed at those aged from 16 to 30, however there was also an over 30 option, and females were also welcome to complete it. One thing that was missing, she said, was a Maori voice and she was very keen to get some responses from that community.

"I will read every response and every response will be used," she said.

Those aged 16-17 could complete the survey but they were not able to be interviewed which was the next stage in Kathyryn’s process.

An option was given on the survey to be interviewed and Mrs Wright already had enough participants for that. There would be some "hard questions", she promised.

She would also be interviewing some stakeholders — people with a vested interest in the issue — and, once completed, the study would be publicly available.

She hoped it would help her operate better to look after rural people and also others — whether employers, doctors or families — "anyone with an interest" — to do the same.

Mrs Wright did some speaking at the likes of Young Farmers events and she intended to use the findings in her talks.

Already she had been "quite shocked" by some of the misconceptions coming through in the survey, particularly young people thinking there was no-one available to help them.

It seemed to be more around education and how to best cater for this generation which interact differently than previous generations.

"We need to move with the times as well".

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-11pm): 0800 942-8787

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