Sarah Donaldson grew up in the Wairarapa before training as a Clinical Psychologist at Massey University, where she qualified in 1999. While she grew up in town she always had strong connections to the rural community. Both her parents and brother worked for one of the main stock and station agencies. Growing up she enjoyed spending time and working on farms belonging to family and friends.
After qualifying Sarah worked in NZ and the UK in a range of clinical settings. Initially much of her work involved working with children, young people and their families before moving into general private practice work and included contracts with the NZ Police, ACC and local organisations.
Sarah returned to live and work in the Wairarapa in 2004, after she married a local sheep and beef farmer. They went on to have 3 children in fairly quick succession and her focus changed to being that of a full time mother and support person during busy farm periods. When her husband decided after 28 years in farming he wished for a change in career, Sarah spent the next 12 months managing the farm (with a lot of support) until their two family properties were leased.
Following this Sarah returned to part time psychology work whilst still working part time as a farmhand for their neighbour and leasee.
Sarah is passionate about supporting the rural community and in particular the health needs of farmers and their families. Sarah now specialises in working in rural mental health, both in her role as Wellness Coordinator for the East Coast Rural Support Trust (ECRST) and through her business Tea Health and Wellbeing Consultants Ltd. Her evidence based clinical practice and practical approach combined with her experience of working on farm herself, mean farmers facing adversity feel comfortable when she works alongside them providing 1:1 support.
Sarah is also in demand to present trainings and provide consultation in the rural sector.
"I provide training to farm industry groups, farm discussion groups, rural professionals and rural communities. We are trying to build more awareness about how to farm sustainably from a health perspective but also to recognise the signs when people are unwell and what to do to support them. We want to encourage more of a collective community approach to supporting those in need and break down the barriers so that people will seek help early."
In 2016 she was part of a select Expert Advisory Panel to assist with the development of a framework to improve rural mental health and addictions outcomes, which was presented to the government in November 2016.
Sarah works closely with MPI and the Rural Support Trusts, boosting support for and promoting rural mental health initiatives. Within her wellness business she undertakes contract work for Farmstrong (www.farmstrong.co.nz) to help get key rural wellness messages out, mainly via social media.
Sarah, you are a crucial link in the rural sector. Your farming background and knowledge mean that you are an AgWomen in high demand when it comes to rural mental health and well being. Keep up the amazing work that you do.
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