As the sun dips beneath the picturesque New Zealand landscape, marking the end of another long day of work, many farmers face a battle that's invisible to the naked eye – mental health struggles.
In a candid and heartfelt conversation on the REX radio show, rural mental health advocate Craig 'Wiggy' Wiggins revealed the distressing state of farmers' mental health in New Zealand.
"The collateral damage that I'm seeing out there in rural New Zealand from the conversations and politicizing of emissions is really affecting people," he revealed.
One major concern Wiggy addressed is the timing of the announcements, often made during crucial farming periods such as the dairy carving and lambing season.
"Fancy kicking the farmers in the middle of the dairy carving time of the year and then lambing time as well with the emission pricing taxes," he lamented, highlighting the profound disconnect between policymakers and the realities of farming life.
However, it's not just the stress of emission pricing and on-farm inflation causing this crisis. The season's fatigue, coupled with the looming election, has left farmers feeling uncertain and longing for decisive, empathetic leadership.
According to Wiggy, many farmers are "checking out," choosing to leave their farms and seek other opportunities. This shift has the potential to lead to a rise in corporate farming and a loss of community-focused farming practices.
"We're going to lose that component of being a lifestyle choice."
Moreover, the impact of these pressures extends beyond the farm gate. Farmers are worried that their reduced income will affect their local communities. They are conscious that their prosperity directly contributes to the well-being of the towns they live in and support.
In spite of these challenges, Wiggins and his team are determined to support farmers and rural communities. Their organization, Whatever with Wiggy, provides resources and aid to those in need. As part of their initiatives, they offer health and wellness checks for farmers, recognising the crucial link between physical and mental health.
Listen to the full chat between rural mental health advocate Craig 'Wiggy' Wiggins and Dominic George above.