As Mental Health Awareness Week unfolds, we are all asked to give some much-needed thought to our individual wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. New Zealanders have room for improvement in part one of that request and good reason to believe they have made measurable progress in the second part.
There are definitely more resources available to use than there used to be, should a mental health issue arise in your, or someone else’s, life. Encouraging people to make use of those resources is an ongoing challenge.
In our neck of the woods, a particularly pressing concern is the mental health of our farmers and others who work and live in the rural sector. The awareness week seeks to shed some light on this specific issue and hopefully stimulate some meaningful discussion about the support available. The need for support is real and the timing is critical.
Current statistics paint a decidedly grim picture: Farmers in New Zealand are disproportionately represented in suicide rates. The factors behind those statistics are as complex as they are numerous. It is not possible to break them down in the space available in this column, but what we must not do is ignore them.
Farmer confidence has hit a new record low, according to a recent Federated Farmers survey. The hardships faced by the industry, including the extra demands brought about by events such as Cyclone Gabrielle, falling livestock prices, and the tsunami of environmental regulations are taking an increasingly heavy toll on rural communities.
We look upon our rural communities as being very resilient and they are much more resilient than we probably realise, but this resolve is being tested more than ever.
The emphasis this week is very much on wellbeing. The promotion of a better awareness of wellbeing is one of the key strands of the new national suicide prevention strategy.
In an effort to gain more traction and subsequently more effective results from the campaign, the organisers of the week are asking people to share their stories of mental illness or distress, and to share stories of hope and recovery, while remembering those lost to suicide and, in doing so, becoming an advocate for change. Historically, sharing does not come easily for New Zealanders. On the farm, less is more when it comes to articulating one’s problems, whatever they may be.
This week can help bring about the change we need.
In a clever strategy, the organisers have created a simple yet effective catchphrase – Five Ways, Five Days.
On Monday we were advised to Take Notice, which refers to the practice of mindfulness and being aware of what is occurring in the present moment. Tuesday’s key word was Give. This is about actions based on kindness, altruism, or generosity. Such actions boost our life satisfaction and overall wellbeing.
Wednesday is Be Active. Widely recognised as crucial for physical health and fitness, being active is also a powerful mood booster. Being active can also enhance our thinking and learning abilities.
Thursday is about Connection. When we nurture meaningful connections with others, we support our own happiness. Finally, Friday – Keep Learning. Any activity that challenges our thinking improves our
ability to think.
Give it some thought.