Kiwi men told to speak up about mental illness

Final preparations are underway for what could be New Zealand's largest ever 'bark up' in Rangitikei.

The event, which will see over 200 huntaway dogs bark at once, is to launch a new mental health campaign aimed at young rural men.

Elle Perriam, 20, wants to try and turn around worrying suicide statistics after losing her boyfriend to suicide in December. 

A PledgeMe campaign is aiming to raise enough money for a series of 10 events around the country, where the topics of suicide and mental health can be talked about in a rural setting.

The symbolic 'Speak Up' events will be held in rural country pubs with a 'bark-up' and evening of speakers and entertainment. 'Speak Up' is a command often used by shepherds to ask their dogs to bark when they want them to muster sheep.  

"I want males to 'speak up' about their own battles with depression, and in turn create a culture where we are more confident to share that surviving is a strength, not a weakness - and that it is 'normal'," she said

The 'bark up' event on Saturday is in the main street of Hunterville before the shepherd's race at the annual Hunterville Huntaway Festival's iconic 'Shemozzle' event.

The campaign's mascot is Jess, a black huntaway, which was her boyfriend's favourite farm dog. 

Jess is also symbolic to the campaign, as depression is often referred to as the 'black dog'. She will lead the 'bark up' at the Shemozzle.

Ms Perriam hopes the campaign will be championed by young rural male ambassadors to spread the message of having gratitude and finding their will to live, helping those who would normally not talk remember their will to live in their darkest times.

Farmer suicide rates in New Zealand are increasing among rural males aged 18-30, according to 2017 statistics. 

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)