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Former Survivor NZ host Matt Chisholm on tour to raise the issue of rural mental health

TV journalist-turned-farmer Matt Chisholm is embarking on a national tour to spark a conversation about mental health and resilience in rural communities.

Matt Chisholm raises awareness about mental health in rural areas.
Photo: Rural Support Trust

Chisholm, who was recently named the Rural Support Trust’s inaugural ambassador, will share his story as part of the trust’s Time Out tour, which kicks off this Thursday in the Southland town of Otautau.

A former TVNZ host Sunday program and New Zealand Survivorhe previously documented his struggles with depression and alcoholism in his book, Impostor, and two documentaries.

Chisholm told RNZ he hopes others hearing about his experiences and how he found a way out would feel encouraged to seek help.

“I want to do this because I know it works,” he said.

“I’ve told my story a number of times now, and after telling my story, I hear other people say that the 21-year-old farmhand went to see a doctor, or the- A 53-year-old guy years left and got advice.

“And that makes me feel good. I’d rather people find happiness than struggle inside their own heads.”

Chisholm hoped the Time Out tour would play a role in normalizing mental health issues, especially in rural communities.

“We know rural people don’t do well in mental health statistics,” he said.

“Part of it is the type of people we also deal with – you know, tough rural people, like those in the construction industry, hard-working people who might find it hard to open up and talk about their feelings, maybe it’s not considered a very masculine thing to do.

“There’s this classic saying, ‘You help a person, you save a person’.

“Normalizing this stuff is key, and then helping. I mean, what are we really here for, other than making a contribution?”

Alongside his television work, Chisholm raises sheep and beef on a 29-hectare block at Chatto Creek, near Alexandra in central Otago.

He said farming can be an isolating experience and it can add to some people’s mental distress.

“A lot of people work alone, or work in silos, and certainly don’t have those relationships that a lot of people in cities will have, so that probably doesn’t help.

“And maybe, you know, with the rugby club and the rural pub gone, people aren’t connecting as much as maybe they should.

“So we can spend an awful lot of time talking to each other in our heads, and I think that’s where a lot of the problem is, for rural people, or just for people who are struggling a bit with health. mental in general, especially in difficult times.”

The 2022 Time Out Tour is the first of three annual tours that Chisholm will present in partnership with Rural Support Trust.

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