DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle has welcomed an increase in funding for mental health in the Budget, saying he hopes the increased frontline services for mental health will include sufficient support for rural communities.
“Dairy farming has always come with some challenges that can impact wellbeing, but the number and scope of these challenges is increasing,” said Dr Mackle.
“The agricultural sector, like other sectors, is facing changes to the way it operates, as well as increased regulations. People deal with changes in different ways and there is a growing awareness of the importance of mental health and resilience for those in the rural sector. We need to ensure our rural communities have better access to mental health professionals when additional help is needed.
“We know that on the whole our farmers are doing OK, but we have seen a rise in farmers reporting feeling stressed, anxious, fatigued and even depressed from time to time.”
Reported stress amongst farmers is often attributed to financial concerns, staffing issues, and increased concerns about the perception of farming, as well as worry over increasing regulation. There are also high rates of reported loneliness amongst farmers, who often live remotely and in isolation from others. Isolation is one of the main factors of mental illness.
“The good news is the growing awareness of mental health in the rural sector and we know that many farmers feel comfortable to seek the support they need,” said Dr Mackle. “Almost one in five farmers have contacted someone for help with mental health or addiction problems in the past year.
“We look forward to seeing more detail on how this funding will be applied to be accessible and practical for rural communities, and especially for our more isolated farmers.”