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Building mental wellness in the rural sector.

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Executive Summary

The topic of mental wellness has become more mainstream in New Zealand due to suicide rates continuing to climb and as more and more people suffer from stress, depression and anxiety in an ever evolving busy society. Unfortunately the rural sector is not immune. In fact the rural sector has a higher suicide rate per capita then the urban sector.

This report explores depression, anxiety and suicide to further understand how to recognize the signs and what to do when the signs appear in your life or others around you. How do we ensure that as a society we can live in a calm, relaxed state of mind even with the reality of a fast world filled with social media and a “keeping up with the Jones” attitude.

In New Zealand one in ten adults are on antidepressants, this is an eight-fold increase in total prescription numbers since 1998. 14.3% of New Zealand adults have been diagnosed with depression at some time in their lives and 6.1% with anxiety disorders. There are many reasons for these figures. What are we as New Zealanders doing to ensure these statistics do not continue to rise? Ask yourself: Are my daily routines sustainable and do I live in a way that will keep myself and others around me mentally well?

This report involved a literature review, thematic analysis and interviews. My focus was to find trends around what triggered mental wellness issues as well as what daily, weekly and monthly techniques people use to make their mind and body feel better.

The research uncovered the main influencing factors in our rural industry causing mental wellness issues. Main factors included isolation, long hours, not enough time off farm, lack of exercise, poor eating habits and lack of sleep.

As New Zealand’s suicide rate increases, now is the perfect time for us to be talking through these issues with an opportunity to make a real difference within our communities. Implementing simple daily mindfulness activities will help you to look after yourself and then others around you.

The research has been pulled mainly from New Zealand to provide a real sense of what is going on within rural New Zealand. This work will not only be vital for the Primary sector but also our urban neighbours as depression does not stop at the farm gate, it can easily find its way into your life at any age or stage.

There are four personal stories throughout this report. The aim here is to give the reader a chance to reflect on their own circumstances while reading about challenges others have been through. We all have a story, tell someone yours, it just might make all the difference to your mental wellbeing and possibly theirs.

Building mental wellness in the rural sector – Matte Kirk