Hawke's Bay vet Richard Hilson says the effects of the lockdown with COVID-19 tended to isolate farmers more than people might have imagined.
They will be trained in existing courses to recognise and respond to stress and mental illness, and in phone counselling, the Ministry for Primary Industries told Rural News.
The extra people, announced by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, will be funded from a one-off $500,000 extra cash grant for mental health initiatives announced at the National Fieldays. The cost to recruit and train more support people will be met under this scheme, MPI says.
Rural Support Trusts are run mostly by volunteers whose travel and operating costs are reimbursed. For this initiative a mix of paid and voluntary support people will be used.
The trusts, with input from DairyNZ, Federated Famers, Beef + Lamb NZ and other rural networks, will find, select and train suitable people.
The aim is to adequately support communities via the trusts’ already well known and effective networks.
Minister Guy says vets and farm advisors will also be trained to recognise and refer people.
“This expanded workforce support network has just started operating in Waikato and more trained rural supporters will be working in communities by the end of September,” Guy says.
“Farmers are resourceful and are used to coping with all kinds of challenges. While this season may be tough for some, we know that many parts of the primary sector are seeing increased export returns. The medium-long term outlook for the primary sector is bright with the rise of Asia and growing global demand for high quality food products.”
Work on the joint one-off $500,000 funding boost package continues and more details will be announced soon.