Isolation combined with the pressure of running a business from home means some farmers are putting their own wellbeing and mental health on the backburner.
It helps lift the rural community and is useful in building resilience in the rural areas, he says.
“All businesses have stress, but we have too many farmers committing suicide and it’s something Federated Farmers has to have a close look at. Feds has run the ‘life’s a bitch campaign’ and that, with the work of Doug Avery – who has been the sort-of Sir John Kirwan of the rural sector – has helped make a difference.
“Federated Farmers is very supportive of the Farmstrong initiative and is keen to be involved.”
Rolleston says it’s hard for farmers to get off farms especially if they are owner-operators. Some farmers do get out, but too often their boats get left in the shed collecting bird shit instead of being used.
“The best time to go away is when it’s busy on the farm – spring, summer and even autumn. It’s only in late autumn and early winter when people have a bit more time that they can actually get off the farm, but if they want to go somewhere warm it’s expensive.”
Rolleston says of the many retired farmers, some would be interested in doing ‘farm locum’ – looking after a property so its owners can take a break. This would be good for farmers who could have someone they trust running their farm.
At the launch, Bryce and Kylie Barron, sharemilking 450 cows in Wairarapa, spoke about the benefits of the Farmstrong concept. They were asked to promote and trial the idea and are very positive about it, though Bryce was sceptical at first.
Says Kylie, “We are positive people… not looking at the negative but focusing on the positive. You can only control what you can control so there are a lot of stresses but it [matters] how you deal with those stresses.”
Bryce says now that they understand the process for dealing with stress they don’t put their heads in the sand. Rather, they deal with it immediately.
Kylie says she is involved in sporting activities and both she and Bryce now have a good work-life balance. She adds that while women deal with thoughts better, men have a different way of dealing with them. When Bryce gets stressed he goes for a run.
What is farmstrong?
A non-commercial give-back initiative founded by rural insurer FMG and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, with funding support from the Movember Foundation.
Helping to shift the focus of mental health in rural communities from depression and illness to wellbeing.
Helping to highlight that farmers are the most important asset onfarm, and that by proactively looking after their mental and physical heath they’re better prepared to run their business and support their family, staff and community.
A ‘brand’ launching with a website and a social media presence. Two of its programmes are Dr Tom Mulholland’s ‘Healthy Thinking’ workshops and the Farmstrong Fit4Farming cycle tour.
Based on extensive research of the wellbeing of farmers and farming communities. This identified wellbeing and quality of life as being top of mind for farmers, who also said they wanted more information on how to look after themselves and their families.