Professor Jane Mills, pro vice-chancellor of Massey University’s College of Health, explains how the future for rural health in NZ is positive.
Launched earlier this year, the programme is a joint initiative between rural insurer FMG and the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).
Farmstrong wants to help shift the focus of mental health from depression and illness to wellbeing. In its first year, Farmstrong will aim to make a positive difference to the lives of 1000 farmers.
"Farmstrong will help to highlight that farmers are the most important asset on the farm and that by taking proactive steps to look after their mental and physical heath, they're better prepared to run their business and support their family, staff and community" says Chris Black chief executive FMG.
Research shows that farmers are great at looking after stock and equipment but often neglect their own needs. In a recent online survey farmers identified wellbeing and quality of life as top-of-mind and said they wanted more information on how to look after themselves.
Through www.farmstrong.co.nz farmers can access practical tools and resources to help them take care of themselves, with information on topics such as nutrition, managing fatigue, exercise, the importance of getting off the farm and coping with pressure.
Farmstrong will also help farmers connect with each other and share experiences via its social media channels, through regional farmer ambassadors and by attending local events such as Dr Tom Mulholland's 'Healthy Thinking' workshops and the Farmstrong Fit4Farming Cycle Tour.
"In the same way that farmers have a system for milking cows or shearing sheep, for example, they need a practical system to keep themselves in good shape too. By having this they'll likely feel better, improve productivity and be better prepared to handle the ups and downs of farming," says Black.
"Just making small behaviour changes over a period of time can help support big improvements in our mental and physical wellbeing" says Judi Clements, chief executive Mental Health Foundation. "Every farmer's performance is affected by their level of health, fitness and happiness. We're not born knowing how to maintain these; we need to actively practise strategies that will improve our mental health. Farmstrong will help show farmers how they can do this."
Farmstrong is funded by FMG and the charity Movember via the Mental Health Foundation.
Key points of Farmstrong:
Farmstrong is a non-commercial give-back initiative founded by rural insurer FMG and the Mental Health Foundation of NZ with funding support from the Movember Foundation.
Farmstrong will help shift the focus of mental health in rural communities from depression and illness to wellbeing.
Farmstrong will help highlight that farmers are the most important asset on the farm and that by taking proactive steps to look after their mental and physical heath, they're better prepared to run their business and support their family, staff and community.
Farmstrong is to maintain wellness rather than focus on illness and depression and in that respect it's different from other support programmes for farmers.
Farmstrong will give farmers access to advice on topics such as nutrition, fitness, sleep, managing fatigue, building mental and physical resilience, strengthening links with family and community and scheduling time off-farm.
Farmers will also be encouraged to connect face-to-face through Dr Tom Mulholland Healthy Thinking Workshops and the Farmstrong Fit4Farming Cycle Tour
More details of the cycle tour including the tour dates and locations can be found at www.farmstrong.co.nz