Barriers to help-seeking for mental health issues in young rural males

Thumbnail Image
Other Title
Wright, Kathryn
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Professional Practice
Otago Polytechnic
Kirkwood, Jo
Mitchell, Carleen
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
mental health
Wright, K. (2022). Barriers to help-seeking for mental health issues in young rural males. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Professional Practice). Otago Polytechnic, New Zealand.
In New Zealand, poor mental health is a salient problem. We experience high suicide rates, and this rate increases when the lens of being young, rural, and male are applied. Traditionally, poor rural mental health has been something portrayed within the media as only applying to older farmers who own their land – and that the issues are more centred upon stock price fluctuations, adverse weather events and financial difficulties. While these issues have shown to be major catalysts for poor rural mental health in other countries such as Australia and Spain, in New Zealand, the scant studies that do exist have shown that we have been looking in the wrong places. These issues do exist, but it is overwhelmingly our young rural men that are experiencing the highest numbers of poor mental health and suicide rates in the agricultural industry. These poor mental health rates can be attributed to many factors, including personal relationship breakdown, interpersonal conflict, loneliness, and easy access to firearms and alcohol. It appears that young rural men in New Zealand mostly suffer in silence when it comes to poor mental health. A common precursor to many experiences of rural suicides was that “nobody saw it coming”. This research aims to dissect why this is so, and what professionals might be able to do about this problem. It is my hope that this research will provide a significant and innovative contribution to the leadership figureheads within the rural mental health sector, such as GPs, counsellors, psychologists and more. The questions that guided this research were: • What are the barriers to seeking help for mental health issues in young rural men in New Zealand? • What can practitioners do to help break down these barriers? • What does that look like in a practical, tangible sense? This study was undertaken using a sequential mixed-methods design, which consisted of an anonymous survey, in-depth interviews with participants who volunteered at the conclusion of the survey, and stakeholders whom I approached for interviews that hold positions of influence and/or authority within the agricultural community. It incorporates quantitative and qualitative research components that were examined autonomously and then construed collectively. These methods all played a part in comprehending the experiences of contributors. The findings of this research have demonstrated that the basic barriers to help-seeking are three-fold: knowledge-based, shame-based, and practical-based. Other recommendations include the need for employers to enlist some basic mental health knowledge training, and that practitioners be flexible and relatable. There were multiple other factors that needed to be understood within both the experiences of the young men in this demographic, and via delivery of mental health care from professional practitioners. This research critically evaluates and provides evidence on a multitude of levels around these barriers and will contribute significantly to the delivery of mental health care within this population.
Link to ePress publication
Copyright holder
Copyright notice
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Available online at