Wednesday, 12 May 2021 11:55

Editorial: Looking out for one another

Written by  Staff Reporters
Former Opposition Leader Todd Muller spoke about his mental health at the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Hamilton. Former Opposition Leader Todd Muller spoke about his mental health at the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Hamilton.

OPINION: There was pin drop silence when former National Party leader Todd Muller recently addresses over 400 farmers at the DairyNZ Farmers Forum in Hamilton.

Muller recalled the hours and days before he capitulated as Opposition Leader after only 53 days in the job.

The Bay of Plenty MP hopes that by telling his story publicly, he'll be able to help farmers buckling under the stress of running their businesses.

Dairy farmers are very good at looking after environmental and animal health, but they don't always worry about their own health.

The farming industry is often very isolated: farmers operate with a lot of variables - weather, politics, regulations and finance to name a few.

It is easy for things to get on top quickly - if something goes wrong it can be pretty dire.

The industry was jolted when DairyNZ's The View from the Cowshed report released in August last year revealed that 62% of farmers stated that they or someone on their farm had experienced mental health issues over the last year.

Another report is due out soon and no doubt mental health will feature strongly.

Sadly the statistics are not surprising as mental health has been a recurring issue in rural communities for some time, but that needs to change.

With high profile leaders like Todd Muller raising awareness about mental health and how to deal with it, there is hope.

Muller stressed that it is good to talk to someone outside your immediate family about what you are going through. And also to look out for your family, mates and neighbours.

It's not that hard. As well as talkingabout calving percentages and grass grwoth we need to ask each other how we are - and importantly, take time to listen to the answer.

Dairy farmers are used to facing challenges. However if there's one thing farmers do well, it's pulling together as a community and helping each other out. Working together and supporting each other is in their DNA. Be aware and recognise problems can occur not only with farmers but with their family members as well.

The farming industry has an unenviable record of deaths related to mental health issues, but it doesn't have to be this way.

As farmers, you might not be able to change things like the weather, but the industry can change the level of support on offer and the way we talk about mental health issues in rural communities.

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