Ninety-eight per cent of farmers Jane Tylee deals with through the rural support trust are suffering stress, anxiety and depression, with some having suicidal thoughts.

Tylee is the Tararua co-ordinator for the East Coast Rural Support Trust and was speaking at a mental health and addiction workshop in Dannevirke on Tuesday.

The fact-finding workshop was organised by the National Party, with Matt Doocey, the Opposition spokesperson for mental health, and Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott, keen to learn more about the situation in Tararua, from the health professionals, educators and youth workers who attended.

Tylee said since October 2016, 56 clients had been referred to rural support in our district and current open cases include 12 dairy farmers and eight who had sheep and beef.

Advertisement

"Since July there have been eight referrals," she said. "The stress and anxiety being felt in our district is quite extraordinary and the biggest part of my work is providing support for farmers under stress and in difficult times."

Sitting around the kitchen table with a cuppa is a safe place for farmers to talk about their situation, Tylee said.

"Farmers are facing isolation and loneliness and there's the stigma of seeking help - they're supposed to be Kiwi tough guys," she said.

Although there was currently just one farm reported to have Mycoplasma bovis, it was something putting farmers into crisis mode.

"Currently we are providing support for farmers because of M.bovis. It's huge."

Tylee said she was seeing financial hardship in our rural areas.

Employment and compliance issues were also putting increased pressure on farmers and the lack of connectivity throughout the district was a problem as well.

"There are relationship issues, a lot of family violence and let's not forget the stress two months of wet weather can put on farmers," she said.

Providing a good network and the ability to link in with doctors and mental health services was vital, but in reality it wasn't very easy, Tylee said.

"We have a lack of doctors who understand farmers. With locums employed, there's a lack of continuity and the stigma (of being seen going to the doctor) is huge," she said.

"We all live in small communities and the barriers are very hard to break down."

There was also a lack of counsellors with rural knowledge, Tylee said.

"However, the Tararua agencies I work with all do a great job and we all work well as a team," she said.

Rural wellbeing was important and Tylee said rural support would like to see some doctors employed with a rural focus, with funding for those doctors coming from the Government.

"We're passionate about supporting farmers in rural areas and although the increased ability to have resilience is vital, after two months of rain and facing compliance issues (through the One Plan), it's increasingly difficult for farmers," she said.

Doocey, the MP for the Waimakariri Electorate in the South Island, is National's first mental health spokesperson, advocating for a cross-party approach to improving mental health outcomes.

"One area of huge importance is a suicide prevention strategy, because when you look at the latest suicide statistics, they're increasing year-on-year. But there's no magic bullet.

"As the former government, we were late to mental health and suicide strategies," Doocey told the Dannevirke News.

Doocey has worked in the mental health field and health-care management in both New Zealand and the United Kingdom, including around the delivery of community health, mental health, and social-care services.

"There's real pressure in rural and peri-urban communities, so we are calling for investment back into rural health," he said.

"Rural communities need rural people delivering these services. In mental health we focus on treatment of mental illness but we need a lot more work in early intervention. We need to be talking about mental health and breaking down the stigma."

Of those with life-time mental health issues, 50 per cent presented by age 14 and 75 per cent by 24, Doocey said.

Need help now?

• When circumstances beyond your control lead to a rural business crisis - financial, climatic or personal - the East Coast Rural Support Trust can assist.
• Call the East Coast Rural Support Trust on 0800 787-254.
• Or in Tararua: Jane Tylee, (06) 376 3825; (027) 3673672; email: tylee.jane@gmail.com

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 police immediately on 111. Or, if you need to, talk to someone else:
• Lifeline: ph 0800 543 354 (available 24/7).
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: ph 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7).
• Youth services: ph (06) 3555 906.
• Youthline: ph 0800 376 633. • Kidsline: ph 0800 543 754 (available 24/7).
• Whatsup: ph 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm).
• Depression helpline: ph 0800 111 757 (available 24/7).
• Rainbow Youth: ph (09) 376 4155.
• CASPER: Suicide Prevention.