Rural mental health top of mind this Mental Health Awareness Week

// Health and Safety

The upcoming Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 September) provides an opportunity to talk about one of the biggest concerns of rural New Zealand and highlight the support available.

image of three farmers in the yard

As Mental Health Awareness Week approaches (26 September – 2 October), it's time to address a pressing concern within rural New Zealand – the mental health of our farmers. The week provides a good opportunity to shed light on this issue and discuss support available. 

Unfortunately, the statistics paint a grim picture: farmers in New Zealand are disproportionately represented in suicide rates. 

Farmer confidence has hit a new record low according to a recent Federated Farmers survey. Kate Acland, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Chair, acknowledges the hardships faced by the industry, including challenges brought about by events like Cyclone Gabrielle, falling livestock prices and the tsunami of environmental regulations.  

“These challenges are taking a toll on the mental well-being of farmers and rural communities across New Zealand.   

“Rural communities are generally very resilient, but this is being tested more than ever this year,” she says. 

Shortly, B+LNZ will release insights into the cumulative impact these policies are having on farmers to send a strong signal to the Government that it needs to urgently address the scale and pace of these regulations.  

"Despite these challenges, there are many opportunities for our sector and we have a lot to be proud of!" affirms Acland. 

The recently published Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries (SOPI) report confirms the significant role of primary industries, contributing a staggering $56.2 billion in export revenue which accounts for 10.7 percent of New Zealand’s GDP. 

“Our public perceptions research shows that more New Zealanders are becoming advocates for our sector. We had over 7,100 people visit the Kiwis Backing Farmers website earlier this year to get a better understanding of the issues facing the sector and to email Ministers calling for changes. 

“There are a lot of services and support available for rural New Zealanders. We encourage you to focus on the things you can control and to stay connected to your family, mates and neighbours,” says Acland. 

Below are some support and resources available. 

Support available 


Organisations that can help 

  • Rural Support Trusts have local, rural people who know from experience that pressures can mount up. Their networks and training can help with all kinds of situations, and help you get through your current challenges. 
  • Farmstrong is also a nationwide wellbeing programme, designed to give farmers the skills and resources to live well and farm well. 
  • Surfing for Farmers, which is operating at a number of beaches this summer, gives farmers the opportunity to get off-farm, try a new skill, meet new people and enjoy the mental health benefits of sea water.  
  • Farm without Harm is a grass-roots movement recognising the unacceptable levels of harm on New Zealand farms. B+LNZ has signed the pledge and encourages you to show your support too.  

 Resources available 

B+LNZ have a range of resources dedicated to improve your wellbeing.  

The FarmSalus tool was developed as part of the Hill Country Futures Programme and is aimed at helping understand and monitor the human component of farming.  


Scene + Herd Podcasts 

Learn more about Mental Health Awareness Week 

For more information about Mental health Awareness Week, visit the official website here