Lean on a gate, talk to a mate campaign

Rural health advocate Craig Wiggins is calling for people to connect over a yarn with others.

‘Lean on a gate and talk to a mate’ is the call from rural health advocate Craig Wiggins.

Mr Wiggins, who farms at Dromore, near Ashburton, has put the message out as a simple mental health campaign to help farmers and others struggling.

‘‘I’ve been doing a fair bit of work around farmer support and helping people through some tough times, and especially through covid,’’ he said.

‘‘We are really, really trying to bridge gaps and talk to people, but it’s just not getting through to some people, and I know that one of the things we can do is just keep checking on each other and talking to those people that you haven’t talked to for quite a while.’’

Mr Wiggins was still coming to terms with the death of a friend in the rural industry by suicide in the past few weeks, which had been tough.

He is a public figure working as an MC, columnist, videographer, sports commentator, horse trainer and farmer. And in his spare time he is a rural health advocate and farmer wellbeing champion.

He encouraged others to keep in touch with their peers and had posted a video message at www.facebook.com/whateverwithwiggy/videos for people to share. It had more than 45,000 views and counting.

Craig Wiggins catching up with Bruce Taylor, of Farmlands, for a yarn over the farm gate.

At rural events farming folks were often seen leaning on a gate or a fence as they yarned to mates, Mr Wiggins said.

‘‘We’ve sort of lost that now that everyone is isolated a little bit more and we spend a lot of time in our phones and stuff like that.

‘‘So whether you lean on a gate and dial a mate, or whether you lean on a gate and just talk to your next door neighbour, or even your staff members or even a family member – just take five minutes out of your day and ‘lean on a gate and talk to a mate’.

‘‘(The campaign has) really resonated with a lot of people, and not just rural people but urban people as well,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s going really, really well, getting a lot of traction and getting a lot of feedback that people are doing it and some of them are helping people they didn’t even know needed it.’’

Mr Wiggins said isolation had been a real issue for people.

And during covid lockdown the farm for many, became more of a fortress, which increased some anxiety.

‘‘You don’t know what is behind a lot of (what people are going through). One thing this has taught me is this doesn’t just turn up on your doorstep there’s a lot of reasons that anxiety and depression and poor thoughts and wellbeing come into your mind.

‘‘It’s a journey and there is a lot of people who know your history and if we just keep checking in on each other that can really help.’’

Mr Wiggins said the racing industry were planning an evening October 6 at Addington involving all three codes – thoroughbred, harness and greyhound – to help people in the racing industry, who were also often under the pump.

‘‘Covid and a lot of things have knocked people around. So if we can help in any way shape or form, we will do our best.’’

There is a lot of help out there, but staying connected with people that you trust and talk to them, he said.

‘‘Just occasionally sit down with a friend,’’ he said.

Mr Wiggins still runs the Whatever with Wiggy sessions over Zoom one or twice a month keeping in touch with the rural community nationwide covering a range of topics.

Those discussions gave farmers and others in the rural industry a chance to vent, or just connect with others

He also helped set up the Farmer First rural health caravan – with Rakaia GP Dr Sue Fowlie – which takes a GP to farm events and normalises regular health checks for farmers.

Need to talk:

Text or phone 1737, anytime day or night

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254