De­pres­sion a daily bat­tle

Waikato Times - - News - Farm­ing Ger­ald Pid­dock ger­ald.pid­dock@stuff.co.nz

‘‘It fizzes out over the top like a big ex­plo­sion. You don’t mean for it to hap­pen but some­times things just get on top of you.’’

Paige Hock­ing

‘‘He’s the one who gets me through the hard times.’’

She also has an­other close friend who she can talk to if she’s hav­ing a bad day.

‘‘But it is dif­fi­cult be­cause the job al­ways comes first so some­times you have to hold back on your emo­tions or

Paige Hock­ing takes it one day at a time in bat­tling de­pres­sion while work­ing on a dairy farm.

She sel­dom makes long-term plans be­cause she never knows when the black dog might wan­der in.

It all starts in the morn­ing when she wakes up on the 125-hectare farm she works as a dairy as­sis­tant near Wai­ter­imu in Waikato.

The 21-year-old was di­ag­nosed with de­pres­sion three years ago. She de­scribes its ef­fects as like shak­ing up a bot­tle of soft drink.

‘‘It fizzes out over the top like a big ex­plo­sion. You don’t mean for it to hap­pen but some­times things just get on top of you.’’

It means she has her good and bad days. One day she re­mem­bers vividly; she con­fided in her former boss about her men­tal health.

‘‘I was hav­ing a s... morn­ing, and my boss at the time asked what was wrong and I told him – it was how I was truth­fully feel­ing – and he told me his opin­ion on de­pres­sion.

‘‘They weren’t good opin­ions. He told me that de­pres­sion is some­thing that is just made up and if you go to the doc­tors and you say you’re feel­ing sad, they give any­one pills.’’

For Hock­ing, hav­ing it dis­missed this way was a kick in the guts.

It is an at­ti­tude she is con­vinced is com­mon among the farm­ing in­dus­try be­cause farm own­ers see em­ploy­ing a staff mem­ber with men­tal health is­sues as a risk.

Yet her cur­rent boss is hugely sup­port­ive, as is her part­ner. your feel­ings to get the job done.’’

Her mes­sage to farm own­ers em­ploy­ing staff with men­tal heath is­sues is sim­ple: Be sup­port­ive.

‘‘If they are hav­ing a bad day, don’t keep pes­ter­ing them to find out what the prob­lem is and give them time to them­selves.’’

Farm­ing was a ca­reer choice she said sur­prised some be­cause its iso­la­tion and long hours can ex­ac­er­bate peo­ple strug­gling with men­tal health.

‘‘If you have a pas­sion for some­thing you’ve got to do it.’’

Farm­ing’s ge­o­graph­i­cal iso­la­tion made coun­selling a chal­lenge be­cause of the dis­tance she has to travel for ap­point­ments and the time it took to get there when jug­gling farm­ing du­ties.

‘‘It doesn’t stop and you have to make time out of your day to do some­thing.’’

There’s no one-size-fits-all so­lu­tion to cop­ing with de­pres­sion be­cause ev­ery­one was dif­fer­ent. This also made so­lu­tions ex­tremely chal­leng­ing, she said.

‘‘Ev­ery­one’s dif­fer­ent and ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent stages and forms of de­pres­sion.’’

Anti de­pres­sants may be an op­tion for some, but Hock­ing prefers coun­selling. To that end, more re­sources needed to be al­lo­cated to get ru­ral men­tal health work­ers out in the field who have a basic un­der­stand­ing of farm­ing.

‘‘Putting posters up and putting some­thing up on Face­book is good, but it’s not re­ally achiev­ing any­thing. It’s just an­other ad.’’

The ef­fects of de­pres­sion go wider than just the in­di­vid­ual when it comes to farm­ing be­cause the busi­ness must keep go­ing, an­i­mals must be fed and cows must be milked, she said.

Paige Hock­ing says farm own­ers need to show more un­der­stand­ing of staff deal­ing with de­pres­sion.DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

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