Farming groups are pleading with stressed workers to speak up if they need support in the wake of a series of deaths of young men across the country.

The Herald on Sunday understands four farmers died suddenly in the past few weeks, including a North Waikato Young Farmers member, and a popular rodeo competitor in Canterbury. Both were aged in their 20s.

The coroner's office has confirmed one of the deaths is before coroner Michael Robb.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne broke down in tears while speaking to the Herald on Sunday, saying she was becoming increasingly desperate to remind farmers that help was available if they needed it.


"Our future of agriculture is being failed somewhere here and we have to figure it out as quickly as we can," she said.

"I've just been picking my brains. I don't want to beg or plead with people about reaching out, but it is about that desperate. What can I say? Have a break, have a vacation?

"Well, how the hell can we? We have animals to look after and farms to run. An easy fix is complicated for farmers, put it that way."

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne is pleading with young farmers to speak up. Photo / File
Federated Farmers president Katie Milne is pleading with young farmers to speak up. Photo / File

New Zealand Young Farmers chief Terry Copeland said the sudden deaths were a blow as the group had just finished a series of workshops across the country, educating people on how to recognise and support others and themselves.

A number of farming groups spoken to by the Herald on Sunday suggested a mix of weather worries, election uncertainty and Christmas would put farmers under stress.

"It's been incredibly dry for the past six to seven weeks which has put a lot of pressure on rural communities in terms of farming," Copeland said.

"I think historically, if you look right across society, Christmas time is not a good time for some. People are run down, it's been a busy farming year. A wet spring, followed by a dry month. It's not surprising (the deaths) seem to have come in multiples.

"There's never a simple cause. Young men in particular are really poor at dealing with emotional issues."


The deaths affected the wider rural community and people felt it keenly, he said.

The number of suspected suicides in New Zealand has climbed three years in a row, with provisional figures released by Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall in August showing 606 people are thought to have died by suicide between 2016 and 2017.

Of that number 143 were aged between 20 and 29.

Between 2007 and 2015 there were 185 farm-related suicides.

Milne encouraged farmers to look out for their friends if they knew they had gone through a personal challenge, for workers to spend time around people, and to give themselves a break.

"It's okay that we can't get it right all the time. We have weather that conspires against us and all sorts of things that are out of our control. There's always things that we can't fix. We need to let these things go," she said.

"Let's look after our mates. It's hard on everyone when you realise someone is suffering silently that much, and you would have walked over broken glass to help them if you knew."

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 police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)