Saturday, May 12, 2012

farmer wellness

On Wednesday I was in Hamilton.
That alone will call for questions about my own wellness.
Hamilton or the 'tron
is considered a nonentity of a backwater city.
We all have them.

I attended a workshop on farmer wellness,
primarily about farmer stress.
I've not been to a mental and physical health workshop before.
Thankfully, for the most part the people were sane.
And the few who were questionable were able to prove their sanity
with the certificates of release.

There's light at the end of the tunnel for stressed farmers.

So we talked about lots of aspects of farmer wellness.
Because we were in the Waikato
(the home of dairy farming in NZ)
we talked about statistics and studies of dairy farmers.
The most interesting stats I remember
was that only 9.5% of dairy farmers
and 20% of the urban population smoke.
The average dairy farmer is overweight
and they talk to the friends rather than professionals.
Those of us familiar with the industry can explain all of these
quite logically and rationally.

The smoking - who wants to smoke with cow poo on their hands.
The fatness - dairy farming has anti-social hours
so no rugby team involvementt please and now days
nobody walks or rides horses on farm,
it's all tractors and ATVs.
The talking to friends rather than professionals?
Who the heck has the time to take half a day off to drive into
town to talk to a shrink?
Who has the consistent phone coverage to phone the 0800 numbers?
Friends are easier.

When a rural person commits suicide
it impacts the whole community.
It's very close to us all.
Everyone I know who lives outside the cities
can tell stories of clusters of suicides,
mostly young males
and I would say mostly due to isolation,
perceived and real.
Farmer's work situation doesn't have numerous co-workers.
Farmer's living situations many have a strong community
but because of physical distance between homes,
the concept of how well others are doing
is that they are totally handling their stuff.
(its not fun in town to overhear domestic arguments
but at least it helps you keep it real knowing that no-one is perfect).
Often, it's like the idea of suicide as an answer to your problems
is like a virus and is catching.
All the Young Farmers I spoke to about
what stresses them and other farmers
mentioned clusters of suicides and many of them not long ago.

are working together and
inviting all farmer network groups to join in
to come up with some viable answers
for improving farmer's physical and mental health.
There's lots of research and communities are
good at pulling together during droughts and disasters
to support each other
but how do we create a sustainable and educated
healthy rural population?

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