Farmers are baring their souls about battling with mental health issues in what can be a lonely and isolating industry in a bid to encourage others to do the same.

A short video called The Monkeys On Our Backs looks to address the poorer mental health outcomes facing the rural sector than those in urban areas by encouraging people to talk about the struggles they may be facing, and not keep their feelings bottled up.

Director Hunter Williams said he had his own mental health issues growing up so it was something that was close to his heart.

But it was after a conversation he had with a farmer at his mum's wedding about how he also had "monkeys on his back" before sharing his story that inspired the video.


"The more I looked into it I realised it was quite an issue."

The 20-year-old film-maker said while he had been lucky to have the support of friends and family around him, it got him thinking about what it must be like for people who lived in the middle of nowhere and didn't have access to that same level of communication.

Agricultural contractor Lisa Kendall. Video / Hunter Williams
Agricultural contractor Lisa Kendall. Video / Hunter Williams

Walker then pitched the idea to his relatives who are in the farming sector in the central Hawke's Bay, which is how he came to interview his uncle Leyton King, who then introduced him to Lisa Kendall.

In the video King, a Porangahau farmer, talks about how farming could be "like groundhog day", and very lonely.

He got help after losing passion for the job and not being excited about going to work each morning, and credited a leadership programme for getting him out of the rut.

While Kendall, a South Auckland agricultural contractor, talked about how the agricultural industry was generally bad for work-life balance.

She said her sisters finally realised something was "quite wrong" when she was pushing family away and only working.

"When I was prescribed the medication she said the medication isn't going to magically fix you. You have to have to take off those glasses you are looking at the world through of where everything is wrong and you're not right, and you're just a carbon footprint and all that stuff I was telling myself."


Williams said it was important for him to put a human face to statistics such as 25 per cent of people would struggle with mental health in their life.

He said pressure and isolation appeared to be major challenges for farmers, which was even more relevant now in a time of increased isolation.

"I didn't want to it to be a soppy film. I wanted it to have a hope aspect to it. Being able to reinforce the idea that this is an issue and this is something that we need to look at."

"By introducing a few characters that people can see a bit of themselves in and be like, if these people are willing to get up on camera and talking about this then that might give them the strength to be able to talk about it with their friends or their family.

"It strengthened the idea that it's okay not to be okay and that the cliche about being the tough farmer and having everything bottled up inside is not a healthy way to live."

Williams shot the footage in October last year just before relocating to Los Angeles to work in the film industry there.

But after moving back to New Zealand when coronavirus struck earlier this year, he had time to focus on editing the video during lockdown.

Farmers seeking support can contact Rural Support Trust on 0800 RURAL HELP

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Where to get help:
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.