Professor Jane Mills, pro vice-chancellor of Massey University’s College of Health, explains how the future for rural health in NZ is positive.
So it's working with other organisations and rural networks around the country to improve the health and mental wellbeing of the nation's farming families.
DairyNZ introduced the GoodYarn initiative in February and has run more than 30 workshops since then, helping more than 600 farmers and rural professionals.
Now businesses and vital rural networks are stepping in to spread the message of good health, training their own people to support dairy farmers and families in challenging financial times.
Seven organisations, including Farmlands and a number of rural support trusts, have completed the licensing programme, developed by the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain Primary Growth Partnership programme (PGP), that allows them to deliver the workshops to their people. DairyNZ is working with another five organisations keen to join up.
The four-hour workshops focus on helping participants stay resilient and strong, removing the stigma of mental illness, recognising the signs of stress in others, and learning how to refer people on if they need more help. The work is funded by the PGP programme, led by commercial organisations, including DairyNZ and Fonterra, and partnered by MPI.
Farmlands organisational capability manager Grigor McDonald said the cooperative saw a need to give its rural professionals more tools to support farmers.
"Every day, our people travel to properties and have conversations focused on the provision of rural supplies and services, but we knew we wanted to do more than that," he said.
Farmlands thought the GoodYarn initiative would be the best way to do this and worked with DairyNZ and WellSouth Primary Health Network to make it happen.
"Farmlands has now delivered the workshop to over 100 Farmlands people and will shortly have four trained facilitators," he said.
"Participants have overwhelmingly endorsed the approach and the feedback is people have left the workshops with an increased level of confidence when talking with shareholders and their families who may be facing challenges."
His aim was to have every Farmlands rural professional attend a GoodYarn workshop in order to help rural clients.
Dana Carver, DairyNZ's Wellness and Wellbeing programme leader, says enlisting the help of other organisations and networks was "the only way to create culture change".
DairyNZ could not do that by itself.
"Organisations having their own licence and their own people trained creates ownership that will create more passion and reach more people."
She says the impact of the workshops had been "immediate and lasting" for those attending and the licensing option would create a sustainable future for the programme.
It was affordable, gave organisations autonomy and allowed them to get on with training their own people rather than wait for DairyNZ to organise a workshop.
The GoodYarn concept was initially developed by WellSouth, a primary health organisation covering Otago and Southland. However, support and investment from the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain PGP programme was needed to take this further.
Health Promotion Manager Louise Thompson says WellSouth consulted with rural communities and organisations and "the issue of supporting rural mental health kept coming through".
WellSouth looked at what strategies and programmes had been used around the country and the world. It looked at what worked and what didn't.
"From there, with the input of a wide range of people from farmers to public health experts, we developed GoodYarn," she said.
She was delighted that the programme had been picked up by DairyNZ and was now being adopted by other groups in the country's rural communities.