I’m a sixth-generation dairy farmer, based in Golden Bay. I’m proud of where we’ve come from and what we’re doing. But my journey hasn’t been smooth sailing. Shortly after purchasing our farm, the milk prices dropped, and we experienced a drought. To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement. The pressures of farming in general piled up on top of each other and at the time, I just didn’t see how much of an effect it was causing on my mental health.
When my 34th birthday came around in 2017, I was lying in bed as I had been for so many days and months, not having the energy to get up and going. I remember looking down on myself asking what was I doing? I had a life waiting for me that was worth living. I spent the day at the beach with my family and on that day, Tyler and I decided that for 365 days we would do something each day to remind us why we were glad to be alive. This was the start of the YOLO project, something I documented through short videos on social media to keep myself accountable.
At the beginning of the challenge, I thought I’d be doing big statement things, like going bungy jumping or swimming with sharks, but I quickly realized that I’m not that type of guy. I find joy in the simple things – being with my family and friends, connecting with people and challenging my mind.
With my self-esteem and self-worth having been so low, a big part of the challenge had been becoming proud of who I was and my contribution to the world. Having pride in what we do not only became a big part of who we were as a family, but who we were as farmers. Beyond that, the YOLO project has changed the way I parent, and it’s changed my perceptions. I now live in the moment and realise what’s important. It’s also had a positive impact on my relationship. I’m so grateful for Tyler – she put down her whole life to help pick up mine and that’s something I’ll never forget.
Farmers in particular face a lot of stress. We’re constantly managing different pressures at different times and it’s easy for things to build up and tip you over the edge. I wanted the YOLO project to be something everyone, including other farmers, could take part in and look at life through a different lens. It’s been five years since we started the challenge, and the journey has been incredible.
Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
Fonterra has partnered with the Rural Support Trust to support rural communities to start conversations on mental health. We aim to support the regional support trusts across Aotearoa to spotlight this topic, while improving the accessibility to wellbeing and resilience services for farming families.
To learn more on the partnership, click here.
To hear from Rural Support Trust Ambassador Matt Chisholm, click here.