More mental health support for drought-affected communities

  • Todd McClay
  • Jo Goodhew

Farmers affected by this year’s devastating drought are being offered more help, with workshops about how to recognise and cope with mental health problems, Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew announced today.

“Working in very stressful and difficult circumstances can have a significant effect on a person’s mental health and those in the rural community can be vulnerable after such a large-scale event,” says Mrs Goodhew.

The Ministry of Health is working with local rural organisations in the drought-declared rural communities to hold a short series of workshops teaching people to recognise the signs of mental health problems and know how to respond.  The dates and locations of the workshops will be announced shortly.

“We know this has been an extremely trying time for many farmers and the impacts are likely to continue for some time, possibly even years. For some farmers, getting through winter and early spring is going to be challenging, for a range of reasons including having to manage on-farm issues caused by drought, financial constraints, and ongoing uncertainty and stress,” Mrs Goodhew says.

“That’s why we need to provide access to as many tools as possible to cope. What’s really important is that people working in rural areas understand when they need help, feel confident to ask for it, and know where to go to get it.”

The workshops add to a number of other mental health initiatives to support the rural community, including activity by ‘Like Minds, Like Mine’ providers and rural organisations like Federated Farmers. Local organisations are also running sessions on stress management and signs of depression and anxiety and there has been development of more support groups for rural men.

The Rural Support Trusts, funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries, also help people in the rural community to more effectively meet and overcome the challenges of an adverse event such as a drought.

More information, including where to go for help, can be found on the Ministry of Health, Like Minds, Like Mine and Rural Support Trusts websites.