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Suicide numbers down on the farm

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Rural suicides are at a record-low in New Zealand.

And although Wairarapa farmers are pleased by this result, they stand by the notion that one death is still one too many.

Statistics released by the Department of Justice show nationwide there were 18 suicides in farming-type occupations in 2015/16, down from 27 the previous year.

It was the lowest count since figures were first collated in 2007.

It showed there was one suicide in Wairarapa in farming-related occupations.

“It’s good to see those results getting better, but still, one is too many,” Wairarapa Federated Farmers President Jamie Falloon said.

“There has been a lot of work done with the Rural Support Trust and different agencies especially in Wairarapa around feeling down on the farm and telling people it’s okay to speak up and ask for help.”

Mr Falloon said efforts had been based around a two-way relationship where it helped people recognise the signs of when their loved ones were “having a tough time”, and how to help them.

“Hopefully all the work put out by the Feeling Down on the Farm group is paying off – but still, one death is too many,” he said.

Feeling Down on the Farm was launched in Wairarapa by the Rural Support Trust in 2014 in a bid to combat depression and suicide in the rural community.

It delivered a 16-page publication to rural homes around Wairarapa and the Tararua district which included forewords from Wairarapa rural leaders, stories from survivors of depression, and information on getting help.

Sarah Donaldson of the Rural Support Trust is a Martinborough farmer and clinical psychologist.

She said the group hoped their initiative had given more awareness of the early signs of depression and better access to help.

“Our message is that you’re not alone,” she said.

“If you’re facing some challenges there are other people who can help in the community.

“In the last year we’ve certainly had an increase in referrals and people accessing support, which is good.

“The message is getting out there and there’s a lot more happening nationally in this space.”

Mr Falloon said there were a range of reasons behind suicide, from financial, to emotional and personal.

“The key thing is there needs to be investment in support services here for people so that when they put their hand up to say, hey I’m having trouble, there’s someone there who can help them.

“And that focus should not just be limited to the rural sector, but across all mental health funding.”


Where to get help:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633
  • Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
  • Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
  • Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
  • If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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