New funding to assist rural mental health

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A further $600,000 will be spent on rural mental health services, including suicide prevention workshops.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced the funding at Fieldays with Prime Minister John Key.

The first announcement includes the development of a framework to Improve Mental Health and Addiction Outcomes for rural New Zealanders and the second is a continuation of the Emergency Response to Support Rural Mental Health.

"The Government recognises that rural life goes in cycles, with ups and downs. We are committed to supporting our rural communities," Dr Coleman said.

"This joint initiative will help to ensure we maintain the momentum achieved last year, while putting a plan in place for the future.

"The new funding will help to strengthen local networks for farmers, workers and families in rural communities. It will provide more suicide prevention workshops and employ coordinators to work with rural support trusts."

The $600,000 is for the second phase of the rural mental health initiative, and follows a similar funding commitment at last year's Fieldays.

The new funding will cover 10 more suicide prevention workshops in rural areas that don't get them at present, and the development of a new programme focused on managing suicidal patients in rural areas.

Falling milk prices have put a spotlight on rural mental health.

The 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, according to information on the Federated Farmers website.

The Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHANZ) will take a lead role in the development of the two initiatives. Michelle Thompson, chief executive of the RHANZ, said the work was long overdue.

"We know that mental health outcomes are poorer for rural communities than urban communities."

Federated Farmers health and safety spokeswoman Katie Milne said this is a much-needed resource in rural communities.

"Farmers are doing it tough at the moment and when times get rough we need a responsive system in place to provide expert support quickly."

In 2014 the East Coast Rural Support Trust launched Feeling Down on the Farm, a 7000-run publication delivered in rural Wairarapa and Tararua in a bid to combat depression and suicide.

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