When DairyNZ started work on the topic of wellbeing in 2011, we didn’t know much about it. We didn’t have figures to show how well we (the dairy workforce) were, we lacked understanding of how to stay well, and we were short on tools and support. Furthermore, we weren’t sure how to talk about wellbeing.
Thankfully, that’s changed. We now have some data, which can be confronting, but it helps us to know where we are so we can do something about it. It’s hard to hide from the facts. Dairy farming can be a challenging job but, on the whole, it’s a hugely rewarding career. Most farmers are doing okay but many report feeling stressed, anxious, fatigued and even depressed from time to time.
It’s important to realise these concerns are not restricted to the farming community. Mental disorders as a group are the third-leading cause of health loss for New Zealanders2. About 47 percent of New Zealanders will experience a mental illness and/or addiction at some time in their lives3.
One of the most encouraging statistics is that almost one in five farmers have contacted someone for help with mental health or addiction problems, for themselves, in the past year4. That’s a high number but the most important part is that people have recognised their need for support and taken action to get it.
It’s been extremely encouraging to see so many organisations providing awareness and support to the farming community, helping us to stay well. We’ve seen completely new initiatives, such as Farmstrong and GoodYarn, developed and made available through many organisations. Other organisations already existed but have become more prominent. Some of these support organisations are listed below.
At DairyNZ, we’ve changed too. We now have a very active wellness committee that helps our staff to stay well and, in turn, to support farmers to run high-performing businesses.
We’ve come a long way but it’s vital that we continue working hard to keep everyone in our dairy sector well. Let’s keep discussing the topic and supporting each other.
Tips to maintain wellness
Improving in just one of these areas can make a big difference. If you were to improve in all these areas, it could transform your and your staff’s ability to work efficiently.
- Maintain your social connections with friends and family.
- Try not to work more than 10 hours a day.
- Try not to go more than seven days without a day off.
- Try to have two consecutive days off when you can.
- Take annual leave – don’t just take the payout.
- Limit the amount of highly processed foods you consume to four portions or fewer per day.
- Eat as many fruits and veggies as you can.
- Find someone you can talk to freely about work frustrations.
- Make time for an interest outside of work.
Get more great tips and advice for staying well at dairynz.co.nz/wellbeing
How can I help someone who's burned out or depressed?
- Be on their side – listen, let them talk.
- Show understanding and sympathy.
- Don’t judge them.
- Avoid offering advice.
- Avoid making comparisons.
- Don’t try to minimise their pain or act like it’s not a big deal.
Worried someone may already be depressed?
- Encourage them to speak to their health practitioner.
- Encourage them to talk to someone about it – these numbers are good:
• Rural Support Trust — 0800 787 254
• Depression Helpline — 0800 111 757
Worried someone is suicidal?
Do everything you can to get a suicidal person the professional help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help them locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor’s appointment.
These are the numbers to call:
- Samaritans — 0800 726 666
- Lifeline — 0800 543 354
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy May 2019