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National Policy

Rural mental health

If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, refer to the information below or visit Depression.org.nz  

Depression is an increasing issue for rural communities. The latest data released by the Ministry of Health shows there is a significantly higher rate of suicide in rural areas than in urban areas.

The most recent suicide rate for people living in rural areas is 12.5 per 100,000 people compared to 10.6 for every 100,000 people living in urban areas.

With mounting compliance costs, increasing local and central government demands, weather events, coupled with the reduced forecasted lamb and milk pay-outs, along with the normal stresses and strains of life, things are only going to get harder for rural communities.

Read their stories.

Federated Farmers is working alongside a number of other organisations such as the Dairy Women's Network, DairyNZ, Rural Women New Zealand, Ministry of Health, New Zealand Institute of Rural HealthAgResearch, Vodafone, Beef  + Lamb, Farmsafe and PrimaryITO to make rural mental health and wellbeing a priority.

The Federation has produced a wallet sized card with a list of services farmers and their families can contact and look up when they are under mental pressure.

 This initiative is proudly supported by:


If you would like some 'When Life's a Bitch' cards please contact Federated Farmers on 0800 327 646.


There is a way through

 There are a number of free confidential services to help people experiencing depression:

Depression helpline 0800 111 757 Samaritans 0800 726 666
Lifeline 0800 543 354 Rural Support Trusts 0800 787 254



 In an emergency do not hesitate to call 111

Alternately you can also talk to your local GP or nurse and they can advise you what to do. To find a medical centre near you visit the yellow pages and type in the area you live in and click find.

Depression.org has developed a rural specific website with stories from farmers who have overcome depression. This is a fantastic tool.

The facts

The following suicide statistics from 2008-2010 have been provided to Federated Farmers by the Ministry of Health.


In 2008 there were 16.2 deaths per 100,000 people living in rural areas compared to 11.1 deaths per 100,000 people residing in urban areas.


In 2009 there were 12.8 deaths per 100,000 people living in rural areas compared to 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people residing in urban areas.


In 2010 there were 16.0 deaths per 100,000 people living in rural areas compared to 11.1 deaths per 100,000 people residing in urban areas. Please note the 2010 data has been updated so is no longer the same as the provisional information published in suicide facts.


In 2011, there was a higher rate of suicide in rural areas compared with the rate of suicide in urban areas - 12.5 deaths per 100,000 population in rural areas compared with 10.6 deaths per 100,000 population in urban areas.

Am I experiencing depression?

There is no simple answer to why people experience depression. However there are some risk factors that we know about: Family History, lifestyle and events.

Most people feel down at some point in their life, however if you are feeling persistently and intensely unhappy for more than two weeks then it is possible you may be experiencing depression and you will need to seek help.

Symptoms of depression can include feeling:

  • Persistently unhappy
  • Anxious
  • Stressed
  • Frustrated
  • Pressured
  • Low
  • Angry

Depression.org has created an online test to determine whether you are experiencing depression and need to seek help.


 What can I do about it?

There are plenty of resources available to help people experiencing depression and their families, to find a way through.

John Kirwan's Journal

Depression.org has created an online journal to help people experiencing depression find a way through. It is a six week program which talks you through several coping mechanisms, such as diet and exercise, to overcome depression.

Self-help techniques

Self-help techniques are great for looking after your mental health. The best thing is that you are in control and can try different strategies at your own pace. A good way to make self-help more effective is to get someone to do the activities with you.

Talking therapies

There are a number of psychological therapies, known as “talking therapies”, that are proven to be effective in treating depression. They focus on identifying and changing the way you respond to the events in your life. Each takes a slightly different angle, so if you need help to figure out which is the right approach for you, talk to your doctor or the Depression Helpline.

Online resources

Learning as much as you can about depression is a great way to find the way through that works for you. There is a lot of information available which can sometimes be overwhelming.

Several organisations have created a selection of fact sheets, information and links that can help you learn more about depression.

Rural Support Trusts

The fourteen Rural Support Trusts help people and families in the wider rural community who experience an adverse event - climatic, financial or personal - to more effectively meet and overcome these challenges. Services are free and confidential. To contact the trust in your area visit the trusts' website or call 0800 787 254.



Kristy McGregor
Regional Policy Advisor
T: 0800 327 646
M: 027 551 1673
E: kmcgregor@fedfarm.org.nz


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