Mental health in farming: Campaign urges farmers to ‘mind your head’
A new campaign has been launched to tackle the stigma of mental health in farming communities.
The Farm Safety Foundation’s week-long Mind Your Head campaign aims to raise awareness of mental health with stories, advice and a short film, entitled “A Quiet Night Inn”, which has been released on social media.
Recent research by the Foundation 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.
And the Health and Safety Executive (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.
“Last year’s campaign was welcomed by the farming community but one thing has become evident, farmer health and wellbeing cannot, and should not, be ignored – by any of us,” said Stephanie Berkeley, who leads the Foundation.
“Simply pretending the issue does not exist or has no impact on the industry is not acceptable.
“This year we are mounting the week-long campaign in the run up to one of the biggest and possibly most stressful events facing the industry – Brexit,” she added.
“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.”
One person who has offered his support for the campaign is Jonathan Glen, young farmer and student at Harper Adams University.
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.
The situation was compounded 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.
Thankfully Jonathan was able to recognise depression from similar symptoms experienced by a friend who showed him there was a way to deal with it through self-help and so began his journey and importantly, as he says, he started talking.
According to Jonathan: “Mental health in agriculture matters. “Having had my own battle with mental health while farming, I appreciate the seriousness of the cause.”
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