Managing Stress in Farming Communities


MY14_F_farmersWhile some level of stress has always been part of farming, today’s farmers face many issues that play a part in keeping their stress levels up. ‘As we know, it is this long term stress that impacts on our mental wellbeing and if not managed can lead to mild to severe depression,’ says MidCentral Health’s Mental Heath Promoter, Pauline Brown.

Among the many factors that have provided farmers with greater challenges in today’s farming world are:

  • Changes in weather patterns and increasing unpredictability. This can lead to financial pressures because of the uncertainty around production and income. 
  • Increased costs can mean a reduced workforce with an associated increased workload with little spare time to complete tasks. 
  • Trying to maintain a healthy balance between home, and work life. 
  • The pressure and cost of maintaining livestock in a good standard of health
  • Increasing compliance issues. 

In the past farming communities had great supportive networks for dealing with difficult issues. Being able to share lightened the load. The decline of the supportive community has left many farmers to work in isolated and lonely situations. Fortunately farming communities are again realising their strength in supporting each other by engaging in community activities and get-togethers.

Stress overload can come from dealing with too many stressors all at once. Signs you may notice are:

  • Anxious and tense for no apparent reason
  • Drinking more alcohol than usual
  • Feeling impatient and irritable
  • Not being able to concentrate 
  • Losing confidence 
  • Having difficulty doing what used to be easy
  • Not sleeping

What you can do to support a friend or loved one?

When you suspect that someone you know and care for is showing signs of stress:

  • Take time to sit and listen to them 
  • Be supportive, patient and encouraging
  • Be the trusted person that they can talk to
  • Encourage the person to ask for help if the need is greater e.g. their G.P.

More information

There are many websites, 0800 helplines, articles and books available to help people identify stress/depression and that provide information on where to go for help. One recommended reading is John Kirwan’s book All Blacks Don’t Cry.

Other resources on stress and depression are available through Public Health Services on (06) 350-9110. 

Also contact your local council to find out where your nearest community ‘Village’ is located or start your own community network.