Methven young farmer speaks out about depression
A Methven Young Farmer has spoken out about his near fatal battle with depression to address the stigma he says still surrounds mental illness in rural New Zealand.
Once a confident young man, 26-year-old Sam Robinson began to experience depression in his final year at Methven's Mt Hutt College in 2008.
As head boy, Robinson looked to have it all on the outside – he was bright and a school leader but the pressure of that final year and the expectation he put on himself took its toll.
Feeling worthless under the weight of stress he was carrying, he was also diagnosed with Hyperhidrosis – an illness that can be caused by stress or anxiety and leads to excessive sweating.
Embarrassed by the illness, he began to isolate himself and drank heavily if he had to socialise.
"For a long time I tried to drink away the issue in order to try and forget that I was struggling. All this led to was drinking myself into an absolute state in full public view. Then I wouldn't be able to control my head at all which would lead to me doing something stupid and expressing that through aggression. I would then punch someone or something for no reason or try to get myself into a fight in order to get someone to hit me back, so hopefully I would feel pain."
Robinson said that pain felt like a form of release, which meant he didn't have to hurt himself.
Not wanting to admit that he was suffering because he felt so ashamed, he went to Otago University to study Law and Commerce, but by the year's end he felt worse than ever and dropped out and returned home to the family farm.
More than anything he felt weak for not being able to overcome the demons inside him as he had always been the one to help others out.
He decided to go to Lincoln University but pulled out after one semester and went back home to the farm. Years of struggle followed, including suicide attempts, but this year Sam decided to get help – much to the relief of his family.
With the help of his doctor and with counselling support Robinson has started back at Lincoln and hopes to complete a Global Business and Supply Chain Degree by the end of next year.
Recently he took to Facebook and shared what he had been going through; a gutsy move which elicited huge support from his home community.
"I wanted to change the way people view and think about depression. It's important not to feel guilty or weak about having depression because after all its an illness. You don't choose to get it so you shouldn't feel ashamed about seeking help for it or talking about it."
Now Robinson wants to encourage people to ask their mates how they are instead of sitting back.
"Just do something for the person you think might be suffering. It doesn't have to be much. It could be as simple as kicking a ball around."
These days Robinson knows his triggers and acts quickly when he thinks he might be going downhill. Recently that meant quitting as vice chairman of his Methven Young Farmer Club, although he still loves attending club activities and believes the organisation offers an important social network for young people to share their feelings.
He exercises regularly, doesn't drink alcohol and has a healthy diet.
"That all helps."
NZ Young Farmers CEO Terry Copeland said unfortunately there were many cases like Robinson's and he urged young people to take note if a friend's behaviour changes.
"Just like Sam said, it's important to be brutally frank and ask about a friend's wellbeing."
Copeland said the organisation was becoming a Good Yarn Workshop facilitator in an effort to help those that may be suffering undiagnosed depression.
"As an organisation representing young people we have a duty of care to look out for mental wellbeing."
WHERE TO GET HELP
0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - 0800 9428 787, Open between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy, who are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For more information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service on 09 623 4812.