Federated Farmers supporting a major programme to tackle depression among rural people


As is often the way in blogging, when there is something current, like David Fisher attacking me for being honest about my depression, along comes other news that supports the point I was trying to make.

There are those out there, like David Fisher, who think that depression is just something that we need to harden up over…take a few pills, stop having a sook and move along.  

No one, and I mean no one that I know who battles depression is a big sook. Working with Boris and Mike King and talking with blokes who seek help via my blog for their depression and other mental illnesses I have found that mostly they are bloody though buggers…I’ve come to the conclusion that depression assails the tough far harder.

People who live and work on the land are no sooks and are some of toughest bastards out there. Depression is a major issue in the country, in fact it may even be worse in the  country than with us soft city dwellers. Federated Farmers is getting behind a major programme aimed and assisting suffers of depression in rural areas:

When Sir John Kirwan heard of Federated Farmers’ “When life’s a bitch” campaign his people got on the phone.

Sir John’s book, ‘All Black’s Don’t Cry,’ could easily be titled ‘Farmers Don’t Cry’ because the same stoic machismo pervades both cultures.

Depression is something we put in a specific box labelled ‘mental health’ when it is as real as chronic back pain.

Sir John also knows the rural suicide rate is appalling.

I won’t go into the triggers but 16 people per 100,000 in rural areas take their own lives versus 11.2 for our towns and cities.

Putting both into perspective is the road toll of 8.9 deaths per 100,000.

While fantastic work is being done to address depression on a national scale, in rural areas, it was the silent killer that dare not speak its name.

The farming community has their own JK now:

Just as Sir John showed personal bravery in admitting depression is something that leaves you feeling isolated and “flat lines you,” Federated Farmers’ David Hunt stepped forward as our farmer ‘JK’.

I cannot say it better than David himself.

“Depression affected me to the point that I couldn’t physically work for 12 months,” he said. “I was incapable of driving a motor vehicle let alone running my farm. At my worst I was living on three hours sleep a night. The tiny little things become a real issue for me and I battled to get through each day. Farmers can be their own worst enemies, we struggle to let people in or ask for help. Working in isolation makes the problem harder to identify. With the stigma around depression I didn’t want to admit I had a problem, let alone take medication”.

What he ran into was the high turnover of rural doctors and we know in some areas that waiting lists are measured in months.

When David decided to seek treatment, “my original doctor had left the practice so I ended up seeing several different locums all offering me different advice because they didn’t know me. There seems to be a shortage of resources in the rural health sector to cope with the problem. We need to do something about this. More people take their lives through depression than road accidents, but we are not talking about it. If we don’t address the increasing numbers of rural suicides, we are letting farmers down”.

What brought things to a head for him was another farmer suicide.

With Sir John lifting the depression stigma, David stepped forward to share his experience in order to help other farmers out.

What helped him in return were other people opening up about their experiences.

“There is no shame in it,” David adds. “Depression is a hereditary illness that causes a chemical imbalance in your brain, there’s no choosing what illness you get”.

Federated Farmers response was that provocative sounding “When life’s a bitch” campaign to get farmers saying “depression.”

I know some of my longest and most loyal readers and commenters are rural fellas, and I also know they battle depression. I tell my story, and I share the stories of others so that you guys know that you aren;t a big blouse…that the people like David Fisher don’t matter and that you aren’t a sook for seeking help.

The Federated Farmers Rural Mental Health page is live.

There are also plenty of free services set up to help people experiencing depression. If you are experiencing depression you can contact any of the following services:

Depression helpline 0800 111 757

Lifeline 0800 543 354

Emergency 111

Rural Support Trusts 0800 787 254

Alternately you can also talk to your local GP or nurse and they can advise you what to do. To find a medical centre near you visit the yellow pages and type in the area you live in and click find.



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  • Rodger T

    The chemistry of life,

  • thor42

    This is good stuff.

    Both of my brothers used to be farmers (they’ve left their farms now), and it can be bloody tough.

  • Travis Poulson

    At long last. Pity the campaign wasn’t around back when I needed it most. Unfortunately alot of ignorance and misunderstanding exists around depression in the rural community, resulting in people like me sweeping it under the carpet and not talking about it for years. After a long hard battle myself, I finally knocked depression right the fuck out in the 12th round leaving it in a bloodied toothless mess on the mat. Whether there will be any further battles in the future is yet to be determined, but knowing that there are more blokes out there now in the public arena talking about it those battles will sure as hell be alot easier.

    I don’t give a flying fuck about Fisher, his comments or whether or not his apology was genuine doesn’t mean jack shit to me. In all honesty it’s made just that little bit stronger by publicly exposing the ignorance of himself and people like him . This is the first time I’ve had enough balls to even mention my previous battles in public, and I hope other sufferers can draw some strength from it and get through their own battles. I’ll get back to my honeymoon now, but couldn’t let this post go by without a comment. Peace all.