In the second of a blog series looking at mental health within agriculture, Naomi Wright, of Therpay with Naomi, looks at what can cause an onset of mental health problems and what we can do to notice changes in ourselves and others.
When it comes to suffering with your mental health, it rarely has an obvious reason and is not something you can easily explain.
There is no predictable path in mental health, so it is only increased awareness that will offer the opportunity to intervene early.
It is increasingly important in the farming community to look after ourselves and, look out for others. By reading this blog series, you are already increasing your awareness and being more open to the world of mental health.
Unfortunately, I cannot give you a list of common triggers or reasons someone becomes unwell mentally, as it is a completely unique experience with many contributing factors. I can, however, offer an insight and examples of how and why mental health issues can become unmanageable and require treatment.
There are people amongst us who have suffered for as long as they can remember. They may have learned many mechanisms to manage their pain or difficult emotions. You may not be aware of their history and they, similarly, may not know they are suffering, because the reality is it is their normal and they are used to it.
When terrible things happen like trauma or loss, we often assume that a person experiences their sadness, anger, lowness and pain around the time of that event, and with time, things get easier. That may well be the case for some of us, but not all of us.
My experience in the farming community is that you pick yourself up and get on with it. So, for those in the farming population who have extremely hectic, busy, traditional and isolated lives, these emotions and the processing of such events can be put off, avoided, repressed and some may lay dormant for years. This person may appear to be coping and to have dealt with the event - they may even feel this themselves.
But if not resolved emotionally, it can, however, manifest a while later. Grief, for example, never ends, it just changes and flows through time. When someone has experienced a bereavement or loss, not just of a person but a farm, animals or crops for example, their emotional response could be delayed and triggered later on.
Years later something could happen or change in that person’s life that gives those previously repressed emotions an outlet.
The same goes for the person who has experienced lifelong mental suffering but has always been able to manage it. An event or experience that may seem perfectly manageable for one person, could be the trigger for that person’s mental health to become unmanageable. This is where the importance of noticing changes in people and empathising with their individual experience is so crucial.
A person’s response to the current situation could feel and appear exaggerated or extreme.
You may find yourself or witness others experiencing emotions that you don’t understand.
You can’t seem to explain them as they don’t fit, or they may seem to be an overreaction to the current experience. The feelings will vary between each of us but will likely be overwhelming. For example, an uncontrollable anger, a persistently heavy sadness, a constant anxious state or any powerful emotional reaction. These responses could range from being very subtle to being very extreme. The key point here is that these emotions can make life difficult and that person may now struggle to cope.
Firstly, we can talk about the emotions surrounding the event at the time. When the event occurs, we can offer a space that is accepting and non-judgemental; we can offer safety in speaking about painful emotions and feelings and we can even encourage that person to seek professional help.
There does not always need to be a trigger, and sometimes there may be one that it is not realised or linked.