Mental Health in Farming
While farming can be a hugely rewarding profession, it is now becoming widely recognised as an industry that is particularly susceptible to poor mental health. Sadly, statistics show us that on average one farmer a week will take their own life in the UK.
Why might this be?
Farming is a 24/7 occupation that lacks days off compared to almost all other professions consequently allowing for little down-time amongst farmers. There is also an inherent pressure on farmers given that many farms are passed down through many generations thus adding to a sense of duty and loyalty to keep the farm striving, even through turbulent economic times.
Ever changing market conditions, environmental factors - such as risks of flooding and an unpredictable climate, as well as the threat of disease amongst livestock, all play their part. One only has to look to the devastating impact of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 in to recognise the severity of this risk; if livestock is at risk then so too are the whole livelihoods of the farmer and his/her family. So the pressure amongst farmers is multifaceted and potentially all-consuming in terms of mental well being.
Statistically, the disproportionately high suicide rate amongst farmers is also compounded by the fact that it is still a male dominated profession and as a society we are increasingly aware of the fact that men are far less likely to discuss any personal problems. This is illustrated across national statistics whereby men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women. Death by suicide is in fact the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
A sense of social and emotional isolation is known to be a factor in suicide risk and the nature of farming -with farmers spending long hours working alone with little human contact - potentially allows mental health issues and suicidal thoughts to fester.
What can be done?
The good news is that most mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression, are very treatable. With the correct intervention and support most people can make a full and ongoing recovery. The challenge tends to be in recognising when you or someone you know is ill and accessing the right support as soon as possible. This tends to particularly be a challenge in the farming community, where farmers often work alone and can be further away from support or not be connected in a world where help feels accessible.
If your mental or emotional state feels uncertain help is available from the following industry specific organisations. Please also visit our helpline page for a list of other organisations that are there to help and share the load. The important thing is to access the support as early possible, long before you reach a point of crisis. Remember, you don’t have to struggle by yourself - good help is available.
Worried about Someone?
Practical advice is available from the charity YANA (You Are Not Alone) website by clicking here
CALM -The Campaign Against Miserably charity -found that over a third of men told them they wouldn’t know what to do if they were worried about a friend. So, they introduced ALAN...
Four steps to Introducing ALAN.
Ask open questions like, “how are you feeling?” to start a conversation. Show concern but don’t judge.
Let them speak. You don’t need to solve problems, they may just need to get stuff off their chest.
Help them make a plan of action and set some simple goals. Let them know what help is out there. Arrange your next meet up.
Build a network of support together, with other friends and family.
Where to find help:
The Farming Community Network
CALL 03000 111 999 7am - 11pm every day of the year
Whether the issue is personal or business-related, FCN is there to support you. They run a confidential, national helpline and e-helpline which is open every day of the year from 7am to 11pm for free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help. Over 6,000 people a year benefit from FCN’s support and they can help with a whole variety of issues.
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution
CALL Freephone Helpline: 0808 281 9490
R.A.B.I offers financial support, practical care and guidance to farming people of all ages, including farmers, farmworkers and dependants. When you call you’ll speak to a member of their dedicated welfare team. They understand that making that very first call – and talking about personal things with someone you don’t know – might sound daunting. However, it’s 100% confidential, so you’ll be free to discuss what’s on your mind without judgement. They won’t disclose any information to third parties without your explicit permission and calls are not recorded.
The DPJ Foundation
Call 0800 587 4262 (open 24/7)
Text 07860 048799
The DPJ Foundation aims to support people in rural communities with poor mental health, especially men in the agricultural sector.
They offer fully funded counselling with fully qualified counsellors at your home, in a mutual location (Pembrokeshire) via internet or by phone.
YANA (You Are Not Alone)
CALL 0300 323 0400 (An answerphone is available out of hours)
YANA can offer specific help for those involved in any way with farming or agriculture in Norfolk, Suffolk and Worcestershire - but wherever you live and farm their website might be useful to you.
CALL 116 123
Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, for anyone who is struggling to cope. You can call Samaritans for free from any phone, email them, or visit their website to find details ofyour nearest branch.
The advice suggested by the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is to follow the guidance of ALAN - Ask, Listen, Action, Network
After much research, the charity YANA (You are Not Alone) has compiled, published and funded a directory of the regional support groups and key national charities which can specifically help those in the rural communities. Click this image for advice on how to recognise symptoms of stress and depression and how best to help a client, colleague, friend or family.