Mental Health Awareness Week: A chat with Elle Perriam

It’s Day 1 of Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme of the week is take the time to kōrero, so we took some time to chat with some of New Zealand’s top rural mental health advocates to find out their strategies for caring for their wellbeing.

Elle Perriam is the founder of Will To Live, a rural mental health charitable trust that spreads awareness and provides support to rural communities that are often isolated from wellbeing services.
Recently, Will To Live launched the RuralChange program, that is providing funded private psychologists for New Zealand farmers: www.willtolivenz.com/i-want-help

(NZNFS): What steps do you take to look after your own mental health?

(Elle):

  1. I fuel my body and brain with foods that support my mental health: limiting processed foods and eating food in their whole form. Most of my meals contain fruits and vegetables. I find when I am not consuming nutrient dense food, it’s hard to be productive or think clearly.
  2. I keep active. I try to reach a certain number of steps a day. I do pilates and yoga most days – this eliminates unwanted stress and rests my nervous system.
  3. I process emotions as they arise. Whenever I feel urges of sadness, frustration, or anger, I let myself feel them come in and pass out. I don’t hide or suppress my emotions anymore. I try to remind myself it is okay to cry and feel down – it is actually essential to being healthy, so we must process as we go to avoid build-up and burnout.

(NZNFS): What advice would you give to someone who is struggling and is unsure about seeking help?

(Elle): View seeking professional help as improving your mental performance, just as we all like to be physically strong to carry out our farming duties.
Professional help can strengthen your resilience to stress and adversity and prepare you with tools for the bad days. It can also process emotions from old hurtful memories and limiting beliefs which may be holding us back from living to our full potential.

It is courageous to seek help, and I get that it may be scary to start. We are social beings, and we aren’t designed to go through every challenge alone. I’ve been to multiple different healers over the years, and will continue to go when difficult situations arise, so I can get over the hurdles quicker and get back to what I enjoy doing most.

You are not alone. You are not a burden. You are loved more than you know and there is support out there for you.

Helplines and support:

If you or your whānau and friends need wellbeing support, we encourage you to visit your doctor, chat with a mate, or get in touch with one of the helplines and services listed below:

Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254
Will To Live RuralChange program: www.willtolivenz.com/i-want-help
Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 or free text 4202

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