Nelson Marlborough Farming - Looking out for our farmers' welllbeing

Monday, February 2, 2015

The current dry weather conditions have been well documented, along with the impact it is having on farms. The dry weather and the other adversities that farmers have been dealing with this season, such as the low dairy prices, threat of fire and sometimes complex regulations, has given me cause for concern not just about the health of the farms but more importantly the health of the farmers themselves.

The dry weather has been prolonged in many parts of the country. The total rainfall to date in Blenheim (since 1 July 2014) is 140mm compared to 368mm for the same period last year. These rainfall numbers are typical across many parts of the region.

The low rainfall has meant many farmers have had to send their stock to the meat processors early due to a shortage of food while others are facing reduced crop growth. Another significant concern is of course the low dairy prices, which although increasing, are doing so at a slower pace than hoped.

On top of having to deal with day to day tasks, farmers are always thinking and planning for a ‘rainy day’, which in this case comes in the form of a very long dry summer. Even those that are well prepared can still be affected and face much hardship.

The financial burden and worries of such adversity can have devastating effects on farmers’ health and wellbeing, both physically and emotionally. In a recent release, the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa stated that information collected over several years has shown spikes in suicide rates amongst farmers around times of economic pressure. We are all very aware of the physical dangers of the farm as a workplace, but equal awareness and support is needed to help prevent and combat the detrimental effects on farmers’ mental health.

Farmers are generally a resilient lot, having learned to adapt to changeable conditions and what that can bring, but we need to make sure that this reputation for resilience doesn’t result in there being a stigma attached to asking for help when it is needed. Farming can be a solitary life, which can make it easier to fall into a state of depression without realising. Everyone needs to be vigilant and look out for those around them.

Depression is an illness, not a weakness, and there are services available to help, so if you think you could do with a hand or just someone to talk to, please get in touch with one of the following.

Rural Support Trusts 0800 787 254
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Suicide Crisis Support 0508 828 865
Depression Help Line 0800 111 757