Mental health awareness on the up

Trudy and Matthew Holmes.

Renae Flett’s photo ‘Calves at sunset’ took out the best on-farm category in DairyNZ’s Mental Health Awareness Week photo competition.
“Sunset with the calves is the best way to relax, calves are such happy animals that even after a rough day on the farm they will make you smile!” Renae

By Maitland Manning – DairyNZ developer


30 October 2018

Dairy farmers, and New Zealanders in general, have come a long way when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing. 

When I was growing up, we were often told to ‘harden up’ if we felt rundown or stressed by work or life, and I’m sure many of you can relate.

It was the same for my parents’ generation. They prided themselves on their hard work ethic and ‘she’ll be right attitude’, often putting their own health last. And mental health in those days just wasn’t talked about due to the stigma attached.

But we’ve come a long way. Nowadays, there is so much more awareness about the importance of mental health and wellbeing.

I believe this shift has come about through people like All Black’s legend Sir John Kirwan sharing their experience with depression and showing it’s OK to be vulnerable and ask for help. Two things that can be so hard to do.

Through telling his story, he has inspired others to step out of the shadows. People like farmer Doug Avery, who wrote a book about his battle with depression.

It’s people like these that help create a culture where it’s OK to talk about what we’re going through and reach out for support.

And I’ve noticed this change in farmers first-hand through my work in the people team at DairyNZ.

Dairy farmers are making a far more conscious effort to look after their staff and themselves, and there is an increasing focus on a good work-life balance.

DairyNZ does a number of things to support our farmers to think about, and prioritise, their mental health and wellbeing.

Most recently, as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we held a photo competition encouraging dairy farmers to connect with nature and snap a picture and share it with us.

We received around 80 entries, and I was amazed at the photos farmers sent in. Not only the calibre of pictures they took, but some of the captions they provided explaining why the moment they captured was good for their mental health.

Among my favourites was from Southland farmer Zoe Wills who snapped a wonderful photo of a curious cow watching her and her partner Benji Gillespie eat lunch, which was framed perfectly by a blossom tree.

One of her comments stood out to me. She wrote: “In the busiest time of year it’s important to take the time to appreciate the smaller things in life and live in the moment.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s often these little things that can make all the difference.

Check out her picture, the winning entries, and a selection of some of the other great pictures submitted below.

For some tips on what you can do to look after your mental health and wellbeing, visit


Photo ‘The Beauty of Spring’ submitted by Zoe Wills.
“In the most busiest time of the year it’s important to take the time to appreciate the smaller things in life and live in the moment. This curious girl was peering through the fence watching us eat our lunch in the beautiful Southland spring sunshine.” Zoe

Photo submitted by Greg and Jess Cowley.
“This is a pic of our three-year-old son with one of our hens. Getting outside with our kids is something we need to do daily. The outdoors and family life is so important to our wellbeing, so it’s lucky we have such a big backyard.” Greg and Jess Cowley

Best off-farm photo, ‘Clinton River on the Milford Track’, submitted by Thomas Utting.
“It helps my mental health to get off the farm and into the beautiful NZ back country. Not only is the scenery stunning but there is no phone signal so it allows me to fully switch off from the farm and work.” Thomas

Photo, ‘Rainbow at Kaka Point lighthouse’, submitted by Victoria Kelly. “This photo helps my wellbeing because it shows me that after a storm there is a rainbow that leads to light and I feel that is a reflection of what happens in everyday lives. When we are sad it can hurt but we need to remember that there will be days when there is a rainbow leading us to happiness.” Kelly

Media inquiries:

Lee Cowan
Senior Engagement & Communications Manager
Phone 021 930 836

Vanessa Feaver
Senior Communications & Media Specialist
Phone 027 836 6295

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