Young farmers tackle mental health

Fieldays will mark the launch of mental health initiatives aimed at farmers.
Fieldays will mark the launch of mental health initiatives aimed at farmers.

This year's Mystery Creek Fieldays will mark an important launch of NZ Young Farmers rural mental health initiatives for rural youth including the launch of a documentary that features stories of depression and suicide among members.

CEO Terry Copeland said the documentary emphasised the organisation's commitment to lowering New Zealand's appalling suicide statistics in rural youth, and would be available for Young Farmer clubs to show their members.

Mr Copeland said several members had been extremely courageous in telling their story about depression candidly, and that will be reflected in the documentary.

"The documentary also deals with the after effects of suicide and in particular shows the tragedy felt by one Young Farmers Club as they came to terms with the suicide of a member who was also a cherished Dad."

Made in partnership with well-known broadcaster Rob Cope-Williams, Mr Copeland said the documentary was a deliberate attempt to be transparent around the issue.

"It's clearly been shown that past rural mental health strategies in our youth have not been successful in decreasing statistics and we have to engage more with our youth around the issues they face if we are to change those grim numbers."

Last November the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand called for a new suicide prevention policy, specifically tailored to address suicide risk in rural men of working age following 2013 data that showed that suicide rates in rural men, aged 15-64, were higher than suicide rates in urban men, and higher than the national male suicide rate.

The data showed it was often young male farm workers that were most at risk - and that was a trend Mr Copeland had seen in his time at the helm of NZ Young Farmers.

"We still have a very real problem around talking about how we are feeling and yet NZ Young Farmers has an excellent network of clubs that are able to offer an outlet from what can be an isolated existence on farm for our young people as well as a social forum where they can share some of their frustrations."

As part of that support, NZ Young Farmers have recently begun GoodYarn farmer wellness workshops around New Zealand for members.

The workshops help participants recognise and respond appropriately to friends, family, farming colleagues or customers suffering from stress or mental illness.

They also provide practical tips and tools enabling participants to discuss mental wellbeing openly and effectively with colleagues, family and friends, recognise signs of stress and other mental health problems, reduce and manage stress and find appropriate support services.

"These are small but vital steps forward," Mr Copeland said.

"But one I'm confident will begin to change the stigma that remains ingrained in the younger members of our rural communities around mental health."

* Launch of NZ Young Farmers documentary on mental health, Rural Health Hub - Mystery Creek Fieldays, 11am, Thursday, June 15.

To preview the documentary search young farmers mental health on YouTube.

- Te Awamutu Courier

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