Young rural women join forces to empower Canterbury farmers

Elle Perriam (left) with Jess the Huntaway and Harriet Bremner with Poppy. Photo: Dana Johnston
Elle Perriam (left) with Jess the Huntaway and Harriet Bremner with Poppy. Photo: Dana Johnston
Two young rural women who have a friendship with a difference will make their first public appearance together in Canterbury in a bid to change the way people in the rural sector think.

Elle Perriam, founder of Will To Live, and Harriet Bremner, children's author and safety campaigner, have both lived through tremendous grief, suffering the loss of both of their partners.

With a bond shared through their deep grief, love of dogs, horses, farming and passion for people - the duo are pairing up for the first time to tell their stories, hosting an event at the Rolleston School Auditorium on March 2.

Presented by The Rolleston Lions Club, "Two Rural Heroines" will raise money for the Will To Live Foundation and Use Your Voice.

Both young women have been on their own respective missions to change the thinking of rural New Zealand when it comes to farm health and safety and mental health and well-being.

Perriam, 22, lost her boyfriend to suicide, inspiring her to start the Will to Live Foundation and travel the country on the Speak Up Tour.

Talking to rural communities in their local pubs, she has started a ripple effect, encouraging people to speak up about their mental health.

"Rural men are notorious for being staunch about their feelings. We have had shepherds come up to us to thank us for starting the conversation. That just makes the whole thing worth it," she said.

Bremner, 31, who lost her partner in a farming accident knows the importance of being practical when it comes to farm health and safety.

"It concerns me that we have this 'she'll be right' and 'it'll never happen to me' attitude in rural NZ. The thing is that it can happen to anyone, even the most experienced operators," she said.

Through her journey of grief, Bremner also realised the importance of looking after mental health and took herself along to a Will To Live evening where the pair connected.

The inspiring duo have not only paired up to host this evening together, but have also been collaborating on paper.

A former primary school teacher, Bremner is now fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing children's books using her beloved sausage dog, Poppy.

She has her third book on the way called Use Your Voice, a rural tale about Jess (Perriam's huntaway) and Poppy - where Jess finds out how to regain her bark after losing it.

This idea was recognised by the Mental Health Foundation and Like Minds, Like Mine, winning the 2019 Creative Grant.

"It's a story targeting social inclusion for children, where adults can start to have important conversations with their kids about how to tell someone you trust how you feel, that it's okay to cry when you feel the need to cry and to surround yourself with good people who care," she said.

"These are simple but key messages we need to be sending our children so they grow into teenagers and adults who are able to feel confident when it comes to talking about their mental health."

Bremner and Perriam believe that it's time to start open discussions addressing mental health and on farm health and safety.

They have seen first-hand how attitudes towards these important aspects of life are often put aside and conversations are avoided particularly by those in the rural sector.

Hoping to influence farmers to put themselves and their people first, to have open conversations and to think safely, the duo believe it will save lives.

Event information - Two Rural Heroines
When: Monday 2nd March 2020
Where: Rolleston College Auditorium, 631 Springston Rolleston Road.
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm

Tickets $16 - find out more here. Sponsors for the event include Ruralco and many rural-focused businesses which have donated goods and services to be auctioned on the night.

Where to get help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

 

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