It’s Mental Health Week and the theme is “Nature is Key – Unlock Your Wellbeing”.
The idea is to escaping stressful or ‘same old rut’ work and home environments to eat your lunch in a park or at the beach, to take the family for a weekend bush walk, etc. It can lift spirits, put you back in touch with Nature, and get you thinking about your health, your priorities – and whether you may need to reach out for help or advice.
Federated Farmers President Katie Milne welcomes the focus on mental health and talking through issues and feelings with others. “Our great outdoors can also be a wonderful tonic.”
But for rural folk, Mother Nature can also be a source of considerable stress. Storms, floods, ailing livestock, droughts, etc., can ratchet up financial woes, relationship strains and the feeling ‘it’s all too much’.
“We revel in our lifestyle in rural New Zealand – it’s beauty, and our role putting top quality food on family tables here and around the world. But if you let it, farming can be a lonely job too,” Katie said.
“The real message of Mental Health Week is that if the stress is getting too much, it’s not smart to tough it out on your own. Talk to your partner, a friend, a neighbour or reach out to one of the professional and confidential help agencies.”
Figures released recently by Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall show (provisional statistics) 606 Kiwis took their own life in 2016/17, up from 579 the year before. Men are dying by a suicide at a rate of three men to one woman.
Other research shows the suicide rate in New Zealand’s rural sector was 20-50 per cent higher than in urban areas.
The Mental Health Foundation, sourcing Ministry of Health data, reports that mental disorders are the third-leading cause of health loss for New Zealanders (11.1% of all health loss), behind cancers (17.5%) and vascular and blood disorders (17.5%).
“For something so common among us, it’s a huge shame that talking about mental wellbeing is still regarded as a bit taboo, or somehow weak. We’ve got to get rid of that sort of nonsense attitude,” Katie said.
“We can’t solve every challenge by ourselves. Your loved ones will feel devastated if you never gave them the chance to understand how you were really feeling.”
Katie, who is also on the Council of Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand, also has a message for the incoming Government: “It’s past time the inequalities of access to health services for the 600,000 people living in rural New Zealand were addressed.”
- There is a wealth of useful information at www.mentalhealth.org.nz, http://farmstrong.co.nz/ and at https://depression.org.nz/
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 522 2999
- Youthline - 0800 376 633
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666