Call for resources to improve rural mental health

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 12:00 07/02/2013

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Drought and other afflictions such as floods can push rural people to the edge, worsening depression, Federated Farmers says.

"Most people know someone in the rural sector who has committed suicide," Manawatu/Rangitikei president Andrew Hoggard said.

Recent rainfall had eased pressure on farmers, who had been dealing with a dry summer, but he said farmers sometimes had a tough time bouncing back from challenging situations.

Mr Hoggard said that, after the 2004 floods, some people found it tough to deal with the big cleanup needed. Their usual methods of dealing with things did not get everyone through.

"We can all get a bit down at times, but most people battle their way back. Those that can't should not be afraid to ask for help."

Federated Farmers has been running a mental health programme for rural people, called "When Life's a Bitch".

Statistics New Zealand figures showed suicide rates were 16 per 100,000 people in rural areas, compared with 11.2 for every 100,000 people in urban areas.

Federated Farmers health and safety spokeswoman Jeannette Maxwell said rural people were "reaching out to each other, given the disproportionate number of suicides in rural New Zealand". There needed to be better resources for rural mental health, she said.

Manawatu Rural Family Support Trust chairwoman Margaret Millard said: "It's not usually one thing, but a combination of things that cause people to get depressed.

"Neighbours don't always see that someone needs help - people who are not well [depressed] often isolate themselves."

Mrs Millard said the rural trust called on people with financial and social expertise to help people. "You can't under-estimate the value of community gatherings, such as a pot-luck tea, or barbecue. It is often about getting everyone together and then they realise a lot of people have the same problems and can talk it through."

The Rural Family Support Trust is available on 0508 376 844.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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