Wānaka Sun       

Farmers under stress risk the most

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 16 Jul, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

I was watching Breakfast on TV One (Tuesday) morning while drinking my first cup of coffee, and Hailey Holt interviewed a couple of farmers about unwitting accidents they had had on-farm when they were tired and overworked.

It reminded me of an accident my father, 80 years old at the time, had on the family sheep farm back in 1999. This was up at Motunau, North Canterbury.

Dad was helping out my brother, who was running the farm. Bill was overworked and extremely stressed over the dismal price of crossbred wool and the state of farming in general. Dad, despite his age, was doing everything he could to keep Bill and the farm afloat. I think he was just as stressed.

Dad was feeding out hay. He shouldn't have been doing this at his age. As is a common practice for farmers, he had put the tractor in gear, jumped off and climbed up on the trailer to offload the feed—no mean feat for an 80-year-old.

Our farm is right on the coast, and as the tractor was getting close to the seacliff, Dad climbed back off the trailer and went climbing back on the tractor to turn it away from the 200m drop down onto the beach,

He had a piece of the hay bailing twine around his leg, and as he climbed up onto the tractor, this went under the wheel, dragging him with it. He was then run over but the trailer. So run over twice.

By the time my brother realised he was missing an hour had passed. Bill found Dad who at that stage, was near death. Not being any cell phone coverage Bill had to leave him lying in the paddock and rush to the homestead to call for help. The Westpac Helicopter arrived within an hour and whisked him off to Christchurch Hospital. As a family, we have donated to the Westpac Helicopter ever since.

Dad didn't die; he is a tough old bugger. He was in intensive care for several weeks. I will never forget the fantastic quality of care he got from the nurses in intensive care. Then he went into an orthopaedic ward for a few weeks, and from there to Burwood Hospital for rehabilitation. He got sick of this pretty quickly and discharged himself.

The point of all this, I guess, is to point out the consequences farmers risk when they are under stress. They end up pushing themselves physically and mentally far more than they should. They end up not looking after their wellbeing because they feel pressured to keep going. They don't feel they can stop.

This kind of stress is more than losing a business due to coronavirus, more than having to lay off staff, more than not knowing where the next dollar is coming from. It can mean losing a life.

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