Optimism, more work required
From farmers in the fields to children in the classroom, promoting mental wellbeing has been a significant issue during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Teachers have described children weighed down by the pressures of society, while leading farmers say they are only just beginning to understand the levers that affect their member’s mental wellbeing.
Counsellors, both in the public and private sector, are reporting their books are full with patients, suffering from work stress, the pressures of expectation and anxiety.
Yet despite the reports of people battling mental health issues, there is also cause for optimism. Newly elected Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon said in June the Government launched a new ‘‘Need to Talk?’’ free twenty four hour a day, seven days a week, four digit phone and text number.
The new service was designed to ‘‘make it easier for people to connect with mental health and addictions professionals’’, Falloon said.
He said Rural Mental Wellness had also been given a $500,000 cash boost. The money would fund 20 workshops ‘‘to improve the skills of rural health professionals treating people at risk of suicide’’.
Rangitata based Labour MP Jo Luxton said initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week helped to change the narrative around mental health. ‘‘The more we highlight mental health then it becomes part of our everyday conversations, and people will be more comfortable to speak out and seek help.’’
Timaru counsellor and New Zealand Association of Counsellors regional representative Christine Macfarlane said most counsellors in South Canterbury were ‘‘very busy’’ dealing with patients who were presenting with a range of problems.
Macfarlane said that was not necessarily a bad thing, as it could also mean more people were becoming ‘‘self-aware’’ of their mental wellbeing.
The region’s business community was also becoming more aware of the happiness of their workforce, with some of the region’s biggest employers embracing a more allencompassing approach to their employees welfare.
Fonterra human resources director, global operations, Rachael Regan-Patterson said the Clandeboye plant near Temuka was using tools to support employees who had experienced mental trauma.
In light of the positive steps being taken and optimism around mental health, some people are cautioning that more money and tools are needed to properly turn things around.
Federated Farmers South Canterbury president Mark Adams said the sector was only just starting to understand issues among those working in it.
Adams was calling for more resources for the country’s Rural Support Trusts, which are present having almost all of their funding swallowed up in helping those people affected, he said.
- Ben Aulakh and Rachael Comer