Rural programme GoodYarn has delivered valuable mental health tools to more than 800 farmers and rural professionals since it was established earlier this year.
That great work was recognised in Auckland on Thursday (August 25) when it was named joint Best Mental Health Promotion/Illness Prevention scheme at the Australia and New Zealand TheMHS (Mental Health Services) Conference.
GoodYarn shared the top prize with eTools for Wellbeing, by the Queensland University of Technology and Young and Well CRC.
Conference organisers said award winners were selected by panels of experts from New Zealand and Australia, who were looking for “ground-breaking” initiatives showing excellence and innovation.
GoodYarn is a workshop which helps rural professionals and farmers understand mental health and wellness. Participants are given tips on how to stay healthy, recognise stress in others and respond effectively.
The initiative was developed by DairyNZ and WellSouth, a primary health organisation covering Otago and Southland, as part of the Transforming the Dairy Value Chain (TDVC) Primary Growth Partnership programme.
It is now run around the country and facilitated by a number of organisations, including Farmlands and several Rural Support Trusts.
DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle says the award is great recognition for the initiative, which has prioritised the wellness and wellbeing of dairy farmers, particularly during challenging times.
“The GoodYarn workshops have been particularly useful in supporting farmers through recent seasons where reduced milk prices have put real pressure on our industry,” says Mackle.
“More than 400 people attended the DairyNZ-delivered GoodYarn workshops and another 400 attended the workshops led by other organisations. This has led to rural professionals and farmers being more confident in talking about mental health and referring farmers who need support.”
More TDVC-funded workshops are coming up in September/October for rural professionals.
GoodYarn was developed by Wellsouth, with DairyNZ leading a nationwide initiative to increase capability and reach to farmers.
The programme has been extended to a licensing programme so organisations can train their own staff.
WellSouth Project Manager Louise Thompson says her organisation is honoured by the success, which she put down to great consultation in its development.
“We talked to a lot of people living and working on farms, organisations and representative groups that support farming and also businesses in the agricultural sector,” she says. “We asked them what they thought could work, what a rural mental health programme could look like, and the issues it could address.
“Blending those insights with research on what has worked elsewhere in the world resulted in a programme that is meaningful, relevant, and engaging to those in the sector.”
She hopes GoodYarn’s success will convince other businesses and organisations to become involved in the programme.
Her views were supported by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Director-General Martyn Dunne.
“It’s really important that everyone working in our rural communities can recognise when they need help, and know that help is available,” he says.
“We are proud to be able to support such a great initiative that is delivering help in a way that works for the rural community. This award is fitting recognition for an initiative that truly has peoples’ wellness and wellbeing at its heart.”
The TDVC programme is a seven-year, $170 million innovation investment led by commercial partners, including DairyNZ and Fonterra, and supported by MPI through its Primary Growth Partnership. Its aims are to enable the creation of new dairy products, increase on-farm productivity, reduce environmental impacts, and improve agricultural education and health.
The award was presented to GoodYarn representatives by Kevin Allan, Mental Health Commissioner, Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, New Zealand.
It was one of eight mental health awards made in the Service and Programme categories; along with three awards for Exceptional Contribution; three awards for research and four awards for Media.
The MHS Conference this year is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its successful awards programme. It is hosted by local mental health organisation, Te Pou o Te Whakaaro Nui.