Keeping tabs on stressed staff and why you need to check in

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A Southland counsellor researching mental health issues facing young men in the rural sector has confirmed what she suspected: there’s a perception of shame in speaking up.

“Young rural men don’t seek help,” says Kathryn Wright. “They suffer in silence.”

As the wife of a Te Anau deer farmer and mother of a shepherd, Kathryn’s always been aware of stress in farming.  As part of her master’s degree research, she conducted a survey of more than 300 men aged 16 – 30.

“Unsurprisingly, the number one reason young men don’t speak up when they’re struggling is a feeling of shame and embarrassment,” she says.

Kathryn is encouraging farm owners and managers to check in with their workers and give them the opportunity to raise concerns.

“If you have a young man straight out of school or home, have them over for a meal and bring them into your fold,” suggests Kathryn.  “Also, ask open-ended questions like ‘How are you doing today?’ rather than ‘How are you?’.  You will reap the benefits of having happier staff who feel supported.”

Five signs your employee could be stressed

  1. Working longer hours or through breaks could mean a staff member is struggling with their workload.
  2. Increasingly irritable or over the top reactions could be due to stress.
  3. Visible tiredness or a lack of energy could indicate sleeping issues.
  4. Shying away or isolating may be cause for concern.
  5. Memory and concentration lapses could be an indicator of distraction caused by stress.