While the world focusses on the Covid 19 virus few even think of the North Canterbury farmers who are literally facing the toughest times in living history. Gayle Lichfield, Chairperson of the Canterbury Rural Support Trust, says the past twelve months drought has had even worse effect than the three-year drought that hit recently. She says the virus has compacted the stress because of transport restrictions and therefore farmers have been unable to sell off stock. “It’s a case of stock that should have left the property eating what little feed was there, and supplementary feed prices getting more expensive” Financial and emotional stress is mounting, and in some cases, there is a real concern about farmers mental health. The trust has formed a phone tree with members ringing local farmers as a means of gauging how people are coping. In most cases the phone call is an opportunity to cheer people up, but in some it is a chance to offer real help to a desperate person who cannot see an end to the dramas. The main message this initiative is that this drought and the severe financial stresses are not going to last forever, it is just a “for now” situation, despite there seeming to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The concern about mental health and those suffering from it is that they don’t, or wont, ask for help and certainly will hide it from others. While suicide is still a stigma for many people, those who have suffered mental health problems are quick to point out that any such thoughts are nothing to be ashamed of and that there is help available to help get them through. As winter looms and the current spell of fine weather continues, the stresses will build in our rural homes, but hopefully the rains will come before it gets too cold for the grass to grow so as to feed what stock remain on farms. The Rural Support Trust is funded by MPI and donations Contact details can be found here.