As a child, some of my best memories of rural New Zealand involve salty porridge, searching for eggs in a chicken coop, picking mushrooms, bouncing around on the back of a trailer feeding out hay to hungry cows, and eating plums and extremely tart apples straight off the trees.
As a townie, farms were exciting places to spend the holidays. There was always something new to do and it was almost always fun for someone who didn’t have to do it day in and day out.
It’s this pressure of living and breathing farming on a daily basis that journalist Yvonne O’Hara explores in her Down on the Farm series.
The Allied Press reporter looks at how farmers love working outdoors and enjoy the tangible results of their labour – but also how exposed they are to economic downturns and isolation.
Yvonne’s latest publication, Down on the Farm: mental health and rural families in the South, concentrates on the families of farmers.
The four-page resource has been distributed as a newspaper supplement and gets straight to the point by acknowledging the stress many farming families are under.
Practical information contained in resource
Stories from educators, counsellors and specialist rural and mental health services explore the signs and symptoms of families who may be under pressure.
By discussing these experiences, readers can recognise their own family situation and begin to understand there are other people facing the same challenges – that there is no need to feel shame, and that they are not alone.
Of major benefit is the practical information contained in the resource. Each page is accompanied by the names and contact details for people and organisations working to improve the mental wellbeing of Kiwi farmers, as well as information boxes on what to watch for and what you can do.
Yvonne conveys the strong sense of community in rural areas; how people watch out for each other and how neighbours, friends and professionals are prepared to step in and support families in distress.
We’re reminded that farmers and their families are less inclined to talk about what is troubling them. However, Yvonne’s message is clear: It’s OK, and necessary, to ask for help.
With all 39,000 print copies now distributed, Down on the Farm: mental health and rural families in the South is currently available in PDF format only. Yvonne’s first publication, Down on the Farm: depression and mental health in the rural South is also available in PDF format.
As a resource, Down on the Farm is well written and has been well received.
Reviewed by Cate Hennessy, Media Grants Coordinator at the Mental Health Foundation