Farmstrong, launched in June, is a partnership between the Mental Health Foundation and rural insurer FMG, and emphasises that farmers are the most important asset on the farm and need to ensure they are in the best possible shape to look after their business and their family.
“When designing the programme farmers told us they have all these systems in place to look after machinery and the well being of stock but not necessarily themselves,” says Farmstrong project manager Gerard Vaughan.
Farmstrong, which caters for farmers across all sectors, focuses on how to proactively develop well being, rather than only respond once problems have occurred. Gerard says it recognises that there are actions farmers can take on a daily basis that build well being. Doing this can help improve performance and prevent some of the more common mental health issues arising.
Choose how you react to issues
Farmstrong promotes “healthy thinking” – approaching day to day issues in a way that reduces unhealthy emotions such as frustration and anger.
“The whole idea is that the way you think about things that crop up can produce healthy or unhealthy emotions.
“It's a tool you can use as part of your daily life. It teaches a choice; how you respond and think about a situation. It’s a very practical, usable tool.”
To kick start Farmstrong, eight two-day “healthy thinking” workshops were held around the country.
Gerard said recently he had feedback from one farmer at a meeting in Taranaki who said he had initially been skeptical about the concept of “healthy thinking”, but came away excited.
Emphasis on physical fitness
Another big emphasis for Farmstrong is promoting the benefits of physical fitness in boosting resilience. Gerard says that because of increasing mechanisation, many farmers aren’t as active as they used to be.
Farmstrong is introducing a Fit-4-Farming Rural Cycle Tour - in which a group will cycle, run and walk around New Zealand next year, hosting events.
Through the Farmstrong website, farmers will pledge to run, walk or cycle a certain number of kilometres at home each week.
“If you commit publicly, you are more likely to stick to it,” says Gerard. The Farmstrong project is supported by DairyNZ which rather than trying to duplicate services, works in with Farmstrong by sharing information and nominating farmers to attend “healthy thinking” sessions and act as informal ambassadors.
Farmstrong works closely with the Farmer Wellness Action Group, which brings together many organisations working to improve farmer well being.
For more information about Farmstrong visit farmstrong.co.nz.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy September 2015