"Suicide in rural New Zealand is higher than any other demographic having a lasting ripple effect through a community - especially with our young people, who are often the largest statistic."

Lincoln University student Elle Perriam, 21, knows more than she would want about suicide.

In 2017, Elle lost her partner, a North Otago shepherd, to suicide. He was just 20.

Several months later Elle and her sister Sarah started the Will To Live Foundation. Their aim was to provide support for young rural people aged 20 to 30 who are feeling desperate and isolated.


Elle says that age group has one of the higher suicide rates in New Zealand.

Now Elle and the campaign mascot, a black huntaway dog called Jess who belonged to her partner, are visiting rural towns on a nationwide tour around the country with an important message of resilience.

Jess makes a great mascot, says Elle, as she symbolises how a loved working dog can often be a vital "will to live" for a young farm worker.

The Speak Up tour will be in Toko on Friday, June 28. Entry is a $10 koha which includes supper and live entertainment.

The evening will feature a range of speakers discussing resilience and wellbeing, with a focus on young farm workers, as they are often the most disadvantaged when it comes to accessing mental health services.

The foundation had a PledgeMe campaign last year which helped them raise over $18,500. This money, along with donations from individuals, industry groups and companies, is funding the tour, says Sarah.

Marcia Paurini, from Rural Support Taranaki, says there will also be an auction on the night, with a range of "off-farm experiences" on offer.

"The aim is to give our farmers a purpose to get off the farm and embrace life."


The auction will help raise money for the foundation, as well as going towards funding the planning of next year's tour, says Elle.

"The tour next year will focus on improving the education of farm manager and owners on the wellbeing of their young employees."

Elle says people are encouraged to bring their dogs to the event.

"Farmers are encouraged to be actively apart of the powerful Speak Up with hundreds of dogs kicking off the night at the venue from 6.30pm where we have a moment of silence for those that have lost the battle of depression and then a 'bark up' in unison breaks the silence. "

She says a group photo is also taken as a powerful memento for the individual community from the night.

Where to get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider.
However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.
If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234
For others, visit: mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/in-crisis/helplines

■ Speak Up tour: Friday, June 28. Toko Hall, 6.30pm. $10 koha entry. Tickets available from www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/will-to-lives-2019-speak-up-tour-stratford-taranaki-tickets-62561195219