Support grows for rural mental awareness campaign

A crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a mental health awareness tour aimed at young rural men has raised over $9000.

Twenty-year-old Elle Perriam wants to try and turn around worrying suicide statistics after losing her boyfriend to suicide in December. 

"The moment when I got told I'd lost someone I loved to suicide was the hardest pain I've ever had to experience," she said.

"The unbearable grief, anger, regret, frustration and feeling of rejection I do not wish upon anyone."

The campaign was inspired by the loss of young shepherd Will.
The campaign was inspired by the loss of young shepherd Will. Photo credit: Supplied

The aim is 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.

An attempt at New Zealand's largest ever 'bark up' - to symbolise 'speaking up' to rural males - where a record number of huntaway dogs will bark at once to launch the campaign.

The event will see over 200 huntaway dogs bark at once in what is referred to as a 'bark up' in the main street of Hunterville before the main annual shepherd's race on the at the annual Hunterville Huntaway Festival iconic 'Shemozzle' event this Saturday, October 30.

Ms Perrium 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.

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.

Farmer suicide rates in New Zealand is increasingly higher within rural males from 18-30 from recent 2017 statistics.