Farmers fight seasonal blues
Help at hand by contacting Rural Support Trust
With the recent atrocious weather and other factors challenging farmers and rural communities, DairyNZ consulting officer for the South Waikato Murray Holt is finding some Waikato farmers are struggling to stay positive.
‘‘ A dose of the winter blues seems pretty common out there at the moment. The stress of calving is over but quite a few farmers are feeling pretty down and seem to be looking at the long season ahead without a lot of enthusiasm.
‘‘ Some of the farmers I and other consulting officers in the wider Waikato region have been talking to are experiencing higher-than-usual levels of irritability, tiredness, and negativity. They don’t tend to talk about it unless prompted – farmers are a staunch lot and when things get difficult will often tough it out rather than open up.’’
Hamilton-based health professional John Grant, who has worked with people suffering from stress and mood disorders, said winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognised type of depression impacting over winter months and has been associated with reduced hours of sunshine and less intense light.
Irritability, fatigue, overly negative attitudes, loss of pleasure, satisfaction and interest in activities usually enjoyed are common symptoms. Sleep disturbance (usually waking up after four or five hours’ sleep) is another.
‘‘For many people things come right by themselves but if symptoms persist for more than two weeks this depression needs to be addressed. In this situation, it’s important that people seek professional help. Have a chat with your doctor – they’ll be able to let you know what options are available,’’ Mr Grant said.
‘‘People who find themselves in this position need to realise this is not a moral or personal failing. We all break at some point if we are stressed for too long or life is just too hard. There is no shame in putting your hand up and asking for help.’’So what can you do if a family member, friend or colleague is feeling down in the dumps?
Keep communication lines open – if you know someone is struggling, keep in regular contact, encourage them to talk if they feel comfortable to and let them get it off their chest. In particular, listen for the feelings.
Encourage them to take time out off the farm, do things they enjoy and spend time with family and friends – try to get the fun and laughter back into life.
Refrain from telling them to ‘‘ snap out of it’’ ( because they almost certainly can’t, and will feel worse from your comments).
Help minimise causes of stress; instead solve problems and find solutions to conflict.
Encourage them to look after their physical health – eating well, making time for exercise and getting enough sleep.
Most importantly though, if things are not improving, they need to seek advice from their GP or health professional.
Mr Holt said the Rural Support Trust is a useful resource which is free and confidential.
‘‘The Trust can support during personal, environmental or financial difficulties and can help find options to manage these types of rural challenges. Often all that’s needed is someone to talk to, but they can also help facilitate with referrals to appropriate professional help, such as financial and farm management, mentoring and counselling.’’
The Rural Support Trust can be contacted on 0800 787 254 or go to www.rural-support.org.nz.
WET WORRIES: DairyNZ is concerned recent rain might be getting farmers down.