The need to be proactive rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff plays a big part in the Rural Support Trust.
A nationwide organisation which supports the rural community during both adverse events like floods, earthquake or fire, plus its ongoing ‘peacetime’ operations, Rural Support has grown considerably since it started in 2004 and has 14 trusts throughout New Zealand.
Coordinator for the Waikato-Hauraki Plains-Coromandel region, Wanda Leadbeater, arrange events and wellness initiatives and supports the trained facilitators. She says her role is to raise awareness of Rural Support’s Wellness Programme and The GoodYarn events and workshops.
“It is at these GoodYarn workshops people can learn to identify the signs of trouble, where to get help and just gain the knowledge that there is someone there to help.”
Number to call
The first port of call if there are signs of mental stress or depression is to call 0800 787 254. The phone will be answered by Rural Support’s specially-trained administrator who will chat to the caller and assess what the problem is.
With permission from the caller, their information will be passed to a suitable facilitator who will make contact and, if needed, meet with the person face-to-face.
“Often all that is needed is just someone to listen, acknowledge and suggest,” says Wanda.
“The client’s individual needs will dictate what support or help is needed. The next steps are decided between the client and the facilitator and they will then help the client navigate to the appropriate services and the way through it,” she says.
The facilitators are farmers or ex-farmers, or have been involved in the rural industry so they understand the type of issues the rural community faces every day.
Wanda says the trust deals with a varying scale of issues; some are complex while others can be dealt with quite quickly. Clients might be stressed, tired, overwhelmed and exhausted with their everyday circumstances. The problem can be financial, legal, contractual, or the breakdown of a partnership either personal or business.
“And that’s what we call operating in ‘peacetime’. During ‘adverse’ events – some sort of natural disaster which is classified by the Ministry for Primary Industries – we scale up our involvement. The recent three cyclones (Debbie, Donna and Cook) and the storm which affected Edgecumbe are prime examples. We work closely with local councils, civil defence and industry partners like Fonterra, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb, along with others.”
Rural Support checks on farmers’ well-being and helps identify the needs of the rural communities.
“During the recent flooding we were able to arrange events to give information to farmers and rural communities and, with support from the Ministry for Social Development, to arrange extra help with clean-up using an initiative called Enhanced Taskforce Green which provide teams of workers to help farmers with their clean-up at no cost.”
After these events Rural Support helps with building up morale with social events such as a comedy night in Ngatea, taking farmers to the rugby and arranging events for children.
Wanda says many calls received via the 0800 number relate to extreme stress. Farmers are tired, things start to go wrong; one thing leads to another, the stress builds and often triggers outbursts which affect relationships or family life.
“Sharemilkers stress about escalating costs and the stress pressure just builds. This is when a call to Rural Support is a good idea.”
The organisation gets calls from the stressed person or the partner of that person. Or it can be a neighbour who is worried about someone’s stress or mental health, or a good friend who has seen the signs and knows to call for help.
“When it is not the person in need of support, we need permission and we will get the caller to get the person concerned to give us a call to ensure it is alright to start the process. Keeping it confidential is important,” says Wanda.
“It’s okay to ask for help. There is not such a stigma about asking for help today. It’s farmers helping farmers so they understand the pressures; the difficulties.”
A great Rural Support initiative is ‘GoodYarn’ which enables farming communities to talk about mental health in an environment which is comfortable. GoodYarn is a practical workshop that is designed to help anyone who regularly talks to farmers as well as those working and living on farms or in rural communities. It gives the tools and confidence to help. The workshops are facilitated by people who understand rural life and mental health.
GoodYarn workshops give tips for maintaining mental wellbeing, how to recognise the signs of stress and common mental health problems. There are practical tools to help initiate a conversation with someone you may be concerned about and how to access the right support services.
For more information or to book your GoodYarn workshop contact Wanda at Rural Support Trust on 021 180 2995. If you or someone you know needs help call 0800 787 254.