No change in farmer sui­cides

Waikato Times - - News - Ger­ald Pid­dock ger­­

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers is call­ing for a new ap­proach to ru­ral men­tal health af­ter fresh data shows no de­cline in farmer sui­cides over the past five years.

Pro­vi­sional data from the Min­istry of Jus­tice re­leased un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act re­veals 20 farm­ers took their own lives in the year end­ing June 30, 2018.

Eigh­teen of these deaths were men and five were in Waikato, the high­est of any re­gion, and six were aged 15-24. Since 2013-14,108 farm­ers have killed them­selves.

Twenty-two farmer deaths were ruled sui­cide in 2013-14, 26 in 2014-15, 18 in 2015-16 and 22 in 2016-17.

The static na­ture of those num­bers sug­gested it was time to look at al­ter­na­tives, Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent Katie Milne said.

‘‘I think we have got to start think­ing out­side of the box to get that change.’’

Milne said there was no one is­sue that was to blame.

‘‘It seems to be a whole lot of stuff and then there is some­thing that fi­nally is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.’’

The high num­ber in Waikato was prob­a­bly due to farmer den­sity com­pared to other re­gions, Milne said.

Con­ver­sa­tions about brain health need to be nor­malised as it was for car­diac health and phys­i­cal in­juries. Men­tal health needs to be seen as an ill­ness, not a weak­ness. But re­sources still need to be put in place to help peo­ple once they are iden­ti­fied as hav­ing a men­tal health is­sue, she said.

‘‘It’s all very well iden­ti­fy­ing peo­ple, but if you don’t have the fa­cil­i­ties to help and the sys­tems in place ... The sad fact is that 25 per cent of sui­cides are peo­ple al­ready in care.

‘‘It’s multi faceted, but I do think that talk­ing about brain health might to­tally de­mys­tify it.’’

Ru­ral men­tal health ad­vo­cate and farmer Doug Avery agreed, but said change would not hap­pen un­til tools for deal­ing with men­tal ill­ness were more widely known, but that takes time. It was not so much a re­sources is­sue as a so­cial change that was needed. Farm­ing is a male dom­i­nated in­dus­try and men are re­luc­tant to share their prob­lems.

‘‘Ru­ral males are more staunch and are work­ing in an iso­lated place.’’

The data co­in­cides with Men­tal Health Aware­ness Week and comes on

‘‘I think we have got to start think­ing out­side of the box to get that change.’’

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent Katie Milne

the back of a new sur­vey that showed 70 per­cent of ru­ral New Zealan­ders have felt more stress over the last five years.

The State of the Ru­ral Na­tion Sur­vey from Bayer New Zealand and Coun­try TV asked 261 par­tic­i­pants sev­eral ques­tions re­gard­ing their views on top­ics im­pact­ing ru­ral NZ and men­tal health.

Those sur­veyed said they’d felt more stress over the last five years with 54 per­cent at­tribut­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sures as the main rea­son. En­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors af­fect­ing work and liveli­hoods came in sec­ond at 49 per­cent.

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