It was when a close relative said “I love you” as he headed off to work one morning that Taranaki diesel mechanic Josh Evershed​ realised something might not be quite right.
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SUPPLIED/STUFF Inglewood Young Farmers Club posed naked to raise awareness for rural mental health. (From left): Patrick Titter, Steven McIver, Liam Honnor, Amy Carroll, Tim Bonner, Kenzie Bellringer. Troy Carroll, Carlin Honnor, and Josh Evershed.

“It was out of the ordinary because he’d never said that sort of thing before to us,” Evershed said.

“It was a realisation to everyone close to him that he may have serious mental health [issues], and we needed to chase it up before it got worse.”

Steps were put in place to ease the relative’s workload, get his mind away from the farm, and go back to what he enjoyed doing, Evershed said.

Meanwhile, in July, Evershed and eight friends from the Inglewood Young Farmers’ Club posed naked for a national photo competition organised by Will To Live and Australian-based mental health awareness group, The Naked Farmer.

They recently learned they had won the $1500 first prize, which they plan to give to mental health charities.

Will To Live was started in 2018 by South Island farmer Elle Perriam who organised a national “Speak Up” tour to rural areas to raise rural mental health awareness in New Zealand after her partner took his own life.

Inglewood club members range in occupations, from mechanics to dairy farmers to car painters, and all have been connected with colleagues facing serious mental health issues in rural areas.

Evershed said his relative had struggled after buying his first farm.

“He had finally got his dream and it was crashing down around him after six months.

“The s… was hitting the fan around the farm. It was a very wet winter, the payout was down and he was struggling to cope.

“There were mornings when he would take a two-hour shower because he couldn’t face going out to farm.”

Club treasurer Kenzie​ Bellringer said: “As a club we support raising awareness around rural mental health because we’ve all been connected to it in some way through friends and colleagues.

“It was a very cold night, sitting on a very cold tractor seat in a very cold shed,” she said of the naked photo shoot.

“We’re lucky we don’t hear more about it because it won’t go away but more and more the awareness about it is becoming wider known.

“There are all sort of pressures which come from working in isolation, and being a tough kiwi bloke who don’t readily share feelings with anyone.

“There was an era when you were told to harden up and take a concrete pill if things weren’t working out on the farm.

“Now people are more aware of depression and will talk about it more openly.”

Where to get help

1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
Anxiety New Zealand 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389) 0800 111 757 or text 4202
Kidsline 0800 54 37 54 for people up to 18 years old. Open 24/7.
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Mental Health Foundation 09 623 4812, click here to access its free resource and information service.
Rural Support Trust 0800 787 254
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Supporting Families in Mental Illness 0800 732 825 Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
What’s Up 0800 942 8787 (for 5 to 18-year-olds). Phone counselling available Monday-Friday, noon-11pm and weekends, 3pm-11pm. Online chat is available 3pm-10pm daily.
Youthline 0800 376 633, free text 234, email, or find online chat and other support options here.
If it is an emergency, click here to find the number for your local crisis assessment team.
In a life-threatening situation call 111.

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