Rural Mental Health

Farmers may be used to isolation but they still need to take care of their mental health says Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.

As efforts to slow the Covid-19 outbreak escalate in New Zealand, people are being asked to stay home and keep their distance from others, while social gatherings and events have been also cancelled.

As a result, farmers may find themselves cut off from everyday rural events that afford them much-needed social interaction, such as rugby games and catch ups at the pub.

However, there were "other mechanisms" that people could use to stay in touch, Milne told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

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"On your Messenger or your Zoom or there's other social media platforms you can use to actually have a video running in your house ... actually talk to people and look at them - not just over the phone or typing."

Federated Farmers had been keeping in touch this way and it was "bloody good" said Milne.

"You can see my grandson running around in the background or the dog fighting the cat or whatever, so it's actually like you're at the pub or somewhere else having a good face-to-face interaction.

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"I think that's important. We've just got to look to those other mechanisms and utilise them and, you know, try and make it as fun as we can while we're in this dire situation, because actually sometimes a little bit of levity is what just lifts your spirits and keeps you grounded.

"We will get through this. It's going to be bloody difficult but we'll get through it and there's some sort of normality that has to come out the other end."

It was important to "look after our mental spaces" said Milne, who believed the changes brought on by self-isolation and social distancing may not be all bad.

"There is going to be some novel stuff come out of this at the end of the day which might stick around and be useful."

Unfortunately it wasn't only coronavirus on farmers' minds at the moment, as the drought continued to bite, said Milne.

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"That's a real double-whammy ... we've still got the drought in front of us. It's not going away yet."

Milne urged farmers to keep in contact with their banks and to remember that the rain will come eventually.

Also in today's interview: Milne talked about how meat processors are working together during the outbreak, how to accommodate workers who want to find employment in the horticulture industry and whether banks should give people a break from long-term fixed interest rates.