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High stress in rural NZ
Katrina Thomas

High stress in rural NZ

Story supplied and written by Peter Burke from Rural News

Rural Support Trusts around the country are having to significantly increase their staff to deal with growing stress in rural areas in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle and other adverse weather events.

Chair of the national council of Rural Support Trusts (RST), Neil Bateup, says in the Waikato where he farms, they have had to increase support people numbers by 25%. He believes other regions are doing the same.

Bateup told Rural News the focus has been on getting advisors out to people to sit down with them and work out the best way to overcome the problems they are facing.

He says Gabrielle is the biggest event that RSTs have had to deal with since their inception in the early 2000’s and there are lot of people stressed for a variety of reasons.

“There are issues around feeding stock, containing stock, financial pressures caused by low returns and compounded by the cost of repairing farm infrastructure.

“As well, many are in a state of flux, knowing that it will take years for things to be returned to normal on their properties.”

Bateup says farmers who were planning to exit the industry, mainly because of their age, whose farms are severely damaged, are in a difficult situation.

“The timing for them is pretty horrific.”

He says another big issue is the difficulty rural people have in accessing medical care. Bateup’s heard instances of people having to wait up to six weeks to get an appointment with a GP and that there are equally long waits to get appointments with counsellors and mental health providers.

“That’s tough. It’s crazy – especially if you have a child that is unwell and having to get to a doctor,” he told Rural News. “The problems are compounded by road closures and roads that are under repair – with a journey that normally would take an hour now taking double that time.”

Bateup adds it’s a wellknown fact that people suffering from stress or mental health issues are prone to making bad decisions – both at home and in their workplace. He says RSTs have been organising events to get people off the farm to mix and talk with others in similar situations.

He says it can be very lonely on a farm struggling to overcome a multitude of problems.

“If people can get away from the farm and mix with others, that will help them cope and lift morale.”

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