It's Ok to not be OK - Rural Farming Community Mental Health Awareness

It’s OK to not be Ok. If you notice someone who's not at the top of their game and feeling a little down, why not ask how they're doing? As our good mate Craig Wiggins of Whatever with Wiggy says "Lean on a gate, talk to a mate". You never know, but you just might be saving someone's life.

Mental well-being is something that a lot of farmers take for granted. Like physical health, it's important to spend some time to focus on your emotions and mental health. Looking after yourself is just as important as looking after your calves or the farm. After all, you need to be your best self to continue doing the great work that you do.

Being on a farm can be incredibly isolating. Yes, you can be surrounded by lots of greenery and breathtaking views, but anxiety and depression can make it seem dull and gray. A lot of farmers struggle in silence, but the reality is, everyone is going through something. There's no shame in letting others know what you're feeling. Sometimes, just talking with someone about your concerns is the first step to recovery.

Improving your mental well-being is easier said than done especially when you're in the throes of the busy calving season, but here are some ways you can make yourself feel better:

·        Keep in touch with friends or family. It doesn't have to be face-to-face; you can call or chat with them online. Let your loved ones know how you're doing. Remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.  

·        Be kind to yourself. It's all right to take a break, rest, or spend sometime doing nothing at all without feeling guilty. You deserve it. It also helps to do one thing at a time. There's always going to be a lot of things that need your attention on the farm, and you don't have to do them all at once. Breathe and tackle each task as it comes. The rest of the work will still be there later. If you have team mates, let them know you need a hand. Sharing a task will make the load much lighter – and you might even get to enjoy a bit of downtime after!

·        Eat well, keep active, and limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol affects your brain and body - and not in a good way. Better yet, spend at least 30 minutes and go for a walk outside. You'll not only get some Vitamin D, being outside can increase your energy levels and boost your well-being. Farmstrong also has a Fit for Calving Exercise Programme to help you get fit and prevent injuries during the physically-intensive calving season.  Incorporate some omega-3 fatty acids in your diet which are linked to decreased rates of depression. Wild salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts are good sources.

Do whatever makes you feel happy (even if it's not on this list). You know yourself better than anyone. Just remember that you don't have to do it alone.

Luckily, in New Zealand, there are a lot of organisations that provide support to people in rural communities, such as Farmstrong, Rural Support Trust, Dairy Women’s Network, NZ Young Farmers, and Rural Women. There’s no harm in reaching out to any of these organisations that will give you expert advice on how to manage your well-being.

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed, and need someone to listen? You can call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor or a peer support worker about how you’re feeling or to ask any questions. A peer support worker is someone who has experienced similar life pressures and is trained to provide support. This service is free and is available any time.

Not quite ready to talk to a stranger? Then follow Whatever with Wiggy’s advice and #leanonagatetalktoamate. Talking to your mates who understand what you’re going through can really help you get through a rough patch