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Meet the farmers behind Ag Mental Health Week

Newstalk ZB / The Country,
Publish Date
Mon, 12 Oct 2020, 2:12PM
Paula and Peter Hynes. (Photo / Supplied)

Meet the farmers behind Ag Mental Health Week

Newstalk ZB / The Country,
Publish Date
Mon, 12 Oct 2020, 2:12PM

Cork dairy farmer Peter Hynes was writing an article on Farm Safety Week when he noticed that Ireland and the UK lost more farmers to suicide than accidents.

He wondered why there was no mental health awareness week, and decided to do something about it.

The result was Ag Mental Health Week, an initiative Hynes started with his wife Paula, that aims to help rural people connect and share experiences all around the world.

"Myself and Paula had a quick chat, made a few phone calls, sent a few emails ... and the people that we contacted said they're all in behind us - and it snowballed from there," Hynes told The Country's Jamie Mackay.

The rationale behind Ag Mental Health Week was simple, Hynes said.

"Let's get talking about mental health and normalise the conversation."

The week-long online and social media campaign aimed to highlight the importance of mental health for those who work in agriculture.

Any Kiwi farmers who wanted to take part could get involved through their social media platforms, by posting a message about how they take care of themselves and adding the hashtag #AgMentalHealthWeek, Hynes said.

A couple of well-known New Zealand dairy farmers had helped the initiative kick off already, Hynes said.

Waikato's Sam Owen had taken part in a panel discussion, and Bruce Eade from West Otago had launched the initiate in New Zealand, Hynes said.

"Sam's is a really top bloke. He's gone through the mill and he's been at rock bottom, but all credit to him, he's really got himself into a good place."

"Bruce Eade is actually the first video that we launched late on Friday night to welcome New Zealand into World Mental Health Day."

Hynes hoped the initiative would get people sharing their experiences and reduce the stigma around mental health issues.

"If we can normalise the conversation, it gives someone that's at a crisis point the confidence to feel that it's OK to talk about how dark a place they are in, and not be afraid of reaching out and asking for help."

"If we stand together as a global farming community, we can do a lot more to break down the stigma."

Also in today's interview: Hynes talked about how Covid-19 and an impending winter was affecting farmers in the UK and Ireland.


Where to get help:

Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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