Sunday, 20 September 2015 08:00

Welcome boost to rural mental health

Written by 
Dr Jo Scott-Jones. Dr Jo Scott-Jones.

New funding from the Government to help rural communities deal with an acute mental health situation is welcome, says Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa NZ (RHANZ) chairperson Dr Jo Scott-Jones.

But the problems are longstanding and go beyond the pressures of a low dairy payout, he says. 

Increased training measures are part of a one-off $500,000 funding boost for mental health initiatives targeted at rural communities, announced by the ministers of health and primary industries.

Increased funding is split between DairyNZ, to provide help through the Rural Support Trusts to those who work directly with farmers to recognise mental health issues, and the RHANZ, to train more health professionals, business networks and communities to tackle depression in rural communities.

Scott-Jones says improving mental health and minimising suicide risk for rural populations is a top priority for all 36 members of RHANZ.

“The funding was announced to deal with this recognised acute problem,” Scott-Jones told Rural News. “But the problem of mental health outcomes in rural communities is a longstanding one.”

He says the awareness raising is the most important initial response in this acute situation. Improving the quality of services via additional training is reasonably urgent but will be a longer term response to the problem.

“Getting people to admit they have a problem… and getting the resources to provide help is a good first step,” he says.

“But this goes way beyond the pressures of a low dairy payout. These are longstanding and ongoing issues that need a longer term response. This money is great to start that off [and is] a recognition there is a problem.

“We hope it is the beginning of something to address this gap we know about… for people living in rural communities compared to urban communities.”

Scott-Jones says unfortunately NZ does not report suicide statistics for occupational groups.  However it is known in the UK that suicide is a choice made more often by farmers than by any other occupational group. 

“Certainly from reading the Australian literature and from contacts in Europe and American the mental health issues in rural communities are recognised internationally as significant.”

Scott-Jones says RHANZ is now talking to the Ministry of Health about specifications for the use of the fund and possible new training for rural health professionals.

He says undergraduate doctors are trained to deal with depression and anxiety for suicide prevention. Post-graduate training is available ad hoc and professionals identify the training they need and where best to access it.

“With the recognised need for mental health training in rural communities, the funding provides an opportunity to increase access to this. The training provided will be evidence based and based on tried and tested processes.”

Doctors now wanting more training would talk to their community mental health team about in-house training and external providers being brought into the district. They could also look at online training opportunities. If they wanted to go further they would consider university papers or courses.

“For me, as an example, the local community health organisation is in the nearest town which is 50km away so the in-house training happens during the day so is inaccessible to me; the university courses are long and involved and usually require [staying] in Auckland and Christchurch,” Scott-Jones explains. 

“The online courses are accessible. It would also be an advantage to me to have more locally provided training on response to this level of mental health need and suicide prevention.”

The funding should make more of those opportunities available to doctors and other rural health professionals.

Scott-Jones says if people are in distress, or know of people in distress, their local GP is a great place to start seeking help.

More like this

How we react governs how we act

OPINION: From my quotes file, here is one that I have rather sadly seen lived out up close and personal, too many times to recall.

Farmers facing undue Govt pressure

Hawke's Bay vet Richard Hilson says the effects of the lockdown with COVID-19 tended to isolate farmers more than people might have imagined.

Film gets monkey off his back

A young Kiwi, Los Angeles-based, filmmaker has made good use of the lockdown period to help farmers battling with mental health issues.

Featured

Dairy conversion - Otaki style

Near the Horowhenua town of Otaki, dairy conversion has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not a case of converting sheep and beef farms to dairy farms, rather it’s a case of just converting old dairy sheds to country style tourist accommodation. Reporter Peter Burke visited two such conversions by two pretty special and creative women.

 

Bringing flat batteries to life

Given the absence of power outlets in many remote buildings on New Zealand farms, there’s every chance of ending up with a flat battery when away from civilisation for an extended period.

Kuhn bolsters mower range

Kuhn has bolstered its mower conditioner range with the addition of two rear mounted/ vertical folding models with a 3.10m working width.

2020 property market closes on a healthy note

Data release by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 175 more farm sales for the three months ending December 2020 than for the same period in 2019.

National

Machinery & Products

Good growth year for Claas

While many sectors of the agricultural machinery were hit by the ravages of Covid-19, the effects of the pandemic did…

Green machine frugal on fuel

According to the industry respected independent DLG PowerMix test, John Deere appears to be the best choice of tractor for…

App takes pressure off

TRS Tyre & Wheel, owned by Trelleborg Wheel Systems, has introduced the TLC Plus App to the New Zealand market.

New MF 5S series arrives

Just before Christmas, Massey Ferguson quietly released details of the successor to its popular MF 5700S range in the shape…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Seriously?

Your old mate reckons the nomination of the New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards (NZDIA) management team as a finalists in…

Good riddance!

The Hound reckons 2021 is off to a rollicking start with news that professional whinger and anti-farming drone Martin Taylor…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter