Big dry's emotional toll on stoic Northland farmers

By Annette Lambly, Mike Dinsdale

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Stoic Northland farmers need to seek emotional help, including counselling, if the region's biting drought starts affecting them psychologically.

Northland Rural Support Trust spokeswoman Julie Jonker said the drought will have a major financial impact on the region's farmers, but just as serious, though less likely to be talked about, was the emotional impact.

"Farmers are traditionally stoic and may not acknowledge the stress, but it's there. Not being able to get away from their problems is causing stress," Ms Jonker said.

"For most people they can go home and forget their work stresses, but for farmers their home is their work."

Tuesday's official drought declaration triggers support from organisations such as the Trust Northland and included counselling and help with tackling the on farm issues, creditors, bankers and IRD.

The drought could lead to tens of millions of dollars in losses for the region.

Ms Jonker said the drought conditions could be demoralising for farmers and, while they were proud people who didn't like to admit they needed help, it was important that anybody under particular stress sought help, although farmers hadn't done so at this stage.

"Talk to your family, your friends, other farmers and if you feel you need to talk to somebody else we have a network of support services across Northland that we can put farmers in touch with to help," she said.

"Don't just tough it out. We all need help at times and it's not something to be ashamed of."

Aranga farmer Michael Griffiths agrees, saying its vital stressed, drought stricken farmers seek help for their personal and emotional well-being as the dry spell continues to bite hard on their ability to farm.

The drought comes hot on the heels of that of 2010 - the worst drought in Northland in 60 years and one which cost the industry $30 million - while the droughts of 2007-09 cost New Zealand $2.8 billion and are widely seen as tipping points for the last recession.

Mr Griffiths said animal welfare, loss of income and rising costs are again putting farmers under stress and it's essential they are talking to someone about their feelings as well as their financial issues.

Farmers could ring 0800 787254 for help or advice from the Northland Rural Support Trust.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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