Dairy farmers, and Kiwis in general, have come a long way when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing.

When I was growing up, we were often told to 'harden up' if we felt rundown or stressed by work or life, and I'm sure many of you can relate.

It was the same for my parents' generation. They prided themselves on their hard work ethic and 'she'll be right' attitude, often putting their own health last. And mental health just wasn't talked about due to the stigma attached.

The Beauty of Spring by Zoe Wills captures
The Beauty of Spring by Zoe Wills captures "this curious girl" peering through the fence "watching us eat our lunch".

But we've come a long way. Now, we place so much more importance on mental health and wellbeing.

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I believe this shift has come about through people like All Black legend John Kirwan sharing their experience with depression and showing it's okay to be vulnerable and ask for help, two things that can be so hard to do.

Through telling his story, he has inspired others to step out of the shadows. People like farmer Doug Avery, who wrote a book about his battle with depression.

Greg and Jess Cowley snap their 3-year-old son with a hen.
Greg and Jess Cowley snap their 3-year-old son with a hen. "Getting outside with our kids is something we need to do daily ... lucky we have such a big backyard."

Such people help create a culture where it's okay to talk about what we're going through and reach out for support.

And I've noticed this change in farmers first-hand through my work in the people team at DairyNZ.

Dairy farmers are making a far more conscious effort to look after their staff and themselves, and there is an increasing focus on a good work-life balance.

DairyNZ does a number of things to support our farmers to think about, and prioritise, their mental health and wellbeing.

Clinton River on the Milford Track, was taken by Thomas Utting, who enjoys escaping to backcountry.
Clinton River on the Milford Track, was taken by Thomas Utting, who enjoys escaping to backcountry. "Not only is the scenery stunning but there is no phone signal so it allows me to fully switch off."

Most recently, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we held a photo competition encouraging dairy farmers to connect with nature and snap a picture and share it with us.

We received around 80 entries, and I was amazed at not only the calibre of the pictures but at some of the captions explaining why the moment captured was good for their mental health.

Among my favourites was from Southland farmer Zoe Wills who snapped a curious cow watching her and her partner Benji Gillespie eat lunch, which was framed perfectly by a blossom tree.

One of her comments stood out to me: "In the busiest time of year it's important to take the time to appreciate the smaller things in life and live in the moment."

I couldn't have said it better myself. It's often these little things that can make all the difference.

For some tips on what you can do to look after your mental health and wellbeing, visit dairynz.co.nz/wellbeing