Farmers Open Up About Depression & the Battle for their Own Mental Health
Farmer & Student Jonathan Glen, and Mother & Dairy Farmer Jennifer Down, along with the leading farming charity, Farm Safety Foundation, advise those in the farming industry that their mental health should be a priority
- Having overcome struggles with their own mental health, two inspiring farmers lend their support for the 2019 ‘Mind Your Head’ campaign
- Poor mental health continues to be the biggest health topic in the UK – one in four people have been diagnosed with a mental illness and in farming, mental health issues continue to be of great concern.
- 81% of farmers under 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today.
- HSE has identified stress, depression and anxiety as some the main causes of work-related ill health. The overall illness rate for agricultural workers is 46% higher than the industry average, and stress, depression and anxiety are significant causes of ill health alongside musculoskeletal disorders and lung disease.
- There are a number of mental health risk factors associated with agriculture. Farmers work long hours, often in isolation. They are under significant financial pressure, often required to take on significant debt just to purchase the land and equipment required to operate. And in most cases, a farmer’s place of business is also his or her home, meaning there is no easy way to separate from the workload.
- In addition, farmers are constantly vulnerable to unusual events and circumstances that can impact their bottom line — from weather and natural disasters to international trade disputes.
- In previous times of stress such as the BSE crisis in 1986 and the outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001, there was a sharp increase in the number of farmer suicides as farm incomes declined. Learning from past experiences we need to be prepared to support our farmers through this time and this is what we are great at, as an industry.
- The Farm Safety Foundation’s initiative Mind Your Head is once again raising awareness of protecting the physical and mental wellbeing of farmers and their families and encourages farmers to look after themselves as well as they do looking after their farms.
FARMERS MUST TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES
Whilst UK farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops and machinery, it appears they do not have such a good track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing.
FARMING MENTAL ISSUES ARE OF GREAT CONCERN
Recent research by the charity reveals that 81% of farmers under 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today and 92% believe that promoting good mental health is crucial if lives are to be saved and farmers kept safe.
WHY DO FARMERS SUFFER FROM MENTAL HEALTH?
There are a number of mental health risk factors associated with agriculture. Farmers work long hours, often in isolation. They can be under significant financial pressure and can be required to take on significant debt just to purchase the land and equipment required for them to operate. And in most cases, a farmer’s place of business is also his or her home, meaning there is no easy way to get away from the workload. On top of this, farmers are constantly vulnerable to unusual events and circumstances that can impact their bottom line and stress levels – from weather and natural disasters to major uncertainties like Brexit.
MIND YOUR HEAD CAMPAIGN
The leading farming charity, the Farm Safety Foundation is asking the farming community to ‘Mind Your Head’ with a campaign to raise awareness and tackle the stigma of the growing issue of mental health in farming. Recent research by the charity reveals that 81% of farmers under 40 believe that this is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today, with 92% believing that promoting good mental health is crucial if lives are to be saved and farmers kept safe.
MIND YOUR HEAD – BRINGING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER
The Farm Safety Foundation will be reminding farmers and farming families that Valentine’s week; when we are supposed to celebrate love and togetherness, can sometimes highlight how different, alone, or low we feel and if that is the case, help is available. The Foundation will bring together key people, organisations and other charities to raise awareness of this mounting issue in the industry and build a community of support and resources for those affected.
The Foundation’s website www.yellowwellies.org and social media channels will share stories, advice and key messages and a new hero film “A Quiet Night Inn” will be released on Monday 11th February on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Organisations such as the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Rural Support and the Farming Community Network (FCN), a voluntary organisation providing pastoral and practical support for farmers and farming families, who are going through difficult times. In FCN’s case, many of the 400 plus volunteers are involved in farming and have a unique understanding of the issues facing the agricultural industry.
At 18 years of age, Jonathan left his home, family and friends to travel to New Zealand to work on a 200 hectare dairy farm managing a herd of 600. Within weeks, and at the height of milk production, Jonathan was left in charge of the herd and soon realised that he was quite depressed. Jonathan says his situation was triggered by the isolation he felt on a farm in the middle of nowhere with no family or close friends nearby and his identity changed as a result. He explains: “I’d think, ‘Who the hell am I? What am I doing here? What am I going to do with my life? I’ve got no money and I’m literally in the middle of nowhere.” But through introspection, self-help and simply talking with close friends he was able to harness their support and intuition to overcome his illness and educate those around him on just how common mental health issues are.
Having battled with depression and anxiety and later Bulimia Nervosa, Jennifer has truly experienced a great deal of pain and heartache. The nature of her husband, Nathan’s work had meant that they moved around a lot and finding time to make friends in the local community was made even more difficult as she had to look after her children. Having overcome her illnesses, Jennifer tells of the sheer importance of having someone to talk to. She says: “If whatever you’re feeling, and however you are acting, feels different, it could be worth speaking to someone… it’s always worth speaking to someone.”
The FCN Helpline can be contacted on 03000 111999 7am-11pm every day for confidential advice and guidance.
For more information on ‘Mind Your Head’ or any of the organisations mentioned in the article, visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter/Facebook using the hashtag #MindYourHead