The most important “animal” on a farm or orchard is the farmer or grower – but often that person pays more attention to the health of their plants or animals than to their own wellbeing, says Joyce Brown of Stay Well NZ.
That’s why 10 years ago, the semi-retired dairy farmer and former nurse from Te Rahu, near Te Awamutu, began to offer free health checks for farmers and growers. Four years ago, that service evolved into the Stay Well NZ Trust.
“We know farmers look after their stock and growers their plants, but often forget their own health needs. Rural people work extremely hard physically and mentally, often without regard to the long-term effects of such pressures,” says Joyce.
Thanks to sponsorship from Rabobank, Joyce and volunteer Sheridan Till of Hamilton offered free blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol testing on the ‘Stay Well’ stand at Zespri’s Momentum Conference at Mount Maunganui in February.
The checks were also a chance for Sheridan and Joyce to chat to growers about the pressures they are under and if necessary, encourage them to see their doctor or health professional.
They also promoted New Zealand’s new national mental health and addictions helpline number: 1737. This easy to remember four-digit number is free to text or call anytime to talk with a trained counsellor.
Joyce is a keen advocate of the service available through the 1737 number. “Calling 1737 is available to anyone not just rural people, and is government-funded. For emergencies, people should call 111. “For non-emergencies this is the number to contact.
“It is staffed by a team of paid counsellors who are available 24 hours a day seven days a week so there is always a real person to talk to. I recommend anyone who needs to talk for whatever reason, to call 1737.”
Stay Well NZ volunteers offer health checks at a diverse range of rural events including conferences, field days and A&P shows up and down the country. “We encourage discussion around health and safety without being threatening and offer direction for back-up if required.”
Joyce says the accent on farmer and grower wellness is important for orchardists, farmers, their industries, communities and our country, especially as the workforce is aging.
“We need these people to stay healthy and involved in the biggest export industry we have. Support is needed to use their time, health and knowledge wisely for the good of us all.
“We as a country can’t afford to lose their vast knowledge and insights, quite apart from considerations of their quality of life as individuals.”
In many situations, Joyce says men in particular, in the rural community, expect to have their physical health intact, despite lack of sleep, diet inappropriate for their physical activity, and regardless of the mental pressure on themselves and their partners and families.
“If monetary pressure is also a concern, with high debt levels and adverse weather, the situation can quickly spiral out of control with tragic results, or avoidable accidents.
“What is the use of a profitable business if the people who built it and work in it are not alive and well?” she asks.
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 anytime for support from a trained counsellor.