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Keeping Well on the Farm
Katrina Thomas

Keeping Well on the Farm

Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford’s fight against depression. By Sally Blundell of Frank Film

In a sea of jumpers and puffer jackets, in a packed-out community hall on a chilly winter evening in the southern town of Winton (attending a Time Out Tour), Tyler Langford describes the experience of watching her husband sink into depression.

“It was like those slow fogs that creep in over the valley, so we slowly lost bits of Wayne, bit by bit.”

In 2015, she and her husband Wayne Langford, a sixth generation Tākaka farmer now head of Federated Farmers, bought their now 120-hectare dairy farm, just down the road from where Langford grew up. But the following two years were rough, marked by tumbling milk prices and dry summers.

“In 2017, it really all kind of folded in on itself,” says Langford. “But when I look back on it, it wasn’t just that that did it – it was a bit of everything I think, and eventually it was just the smallest thing that broke the camel’s back.”

Tyler Langford came from a family where “suck it up, buttercup” was the usual riposte to feeling down. When she saw her husband struggling, “it was like, ‘you’ll be right, she’ll be right’.”

Now, she remembers her husband sitting on the couch, “and all he could see was the jobs he wasn’t getting done on the farm.”

Langford didn’t talk about his troubles, but for his wife and three young sons, says Tyler, it was clear he was struggling.

“Looking back, I can hand on heart say that he had depression but at the time even I struggled to put the words around what it was.”

With straight-talking honesty, she tells the crowd in Winton, “It was the most harrowing experience I’ve ever had. To watch your best friend literally disappear before your eyes is horrendous.”

Langford was resistant to seeking help – the very thought of going to GP prompted fears they were going to “put him in a straitjacket and take him away from his kids and his farm.”

But each day she had to reassure their young sons, “It’s all going to be ok.”

There were days, she admits, that she just wanted to pack the children in the car and drive away, not because she wanted to leave her husband, but because “the situation was just getting unbearable.”

That fog began to lift on Langford’s 34th birthday. He was lying on his bed, he tells Frank Film, “and it was one of those things where you feel you're looking down on yourself saying, hey, you know, you’ve got to get yourself out of this.”

He swung his feet to the floor “and we headed to the beach”.

It was “an awesome day”, prompting his decision to do something positive every day.

With this commitment he began cycling, swimming, meeting up with old friends, even joining the senior B rugby team (he didn't make a tackle for three years, says Tyler).

For their sons, she says, “It felt like they were getting their ‘Captain Fun’ back.”

This turnaround led to YOLO (You Only Live Once) Farmer, a social media platform charting everyday upbeat stories with a strong focus around mental health, now with 33,000 followers.

Langford still has low days and, as president of Federated Farmers, no shortage of challenges, “but he knows he’s got more tools in his toolbox,” says Tyler.

In the community hall, she offers her advice for family members watching a loved one struggling emotionally: try and get them to see they are struggling, try and get them to see that what’s happening is outside their realm of the norm, “because I don't like the word ‘normal’.”

For Langford, the memories of that time, and the sense of vulnerability, still bring tears to his eyes.

“This feeling, this rawness and emotion, will never go away and I think, to be fair, it’s a fair strength that drives me. But on the other hand, you can pull yourself out of it and come out the other side and actually turn that weakness into a strength.”

Credits: Producer/Director/Cameraman/Interviewer: Gerard Smyth Writer/Researcher: Sally Blundell Editor: Oliver Dawe Researcher/Post assistant: Ellie Adams Second camera: Tom Cuthbert Line Producer: Erina Ellis Sound Design/Mix: Chris Sinclair Production Manager: Jo Ffitch Sound Design/Mix: Chris Sinclair

Attributions: The Langford family Southland Rural Support Trust

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