Despite improvements in mental health awareness, two thirds of farmers still say they would not seek professional help if they were concerned about their own mental health.
Nearly 90 per cent of respondents to polls on Farmers Guardian’s social media platforms agreed that farmers are at a higher risk of mental health problems than the general population.
It was also widely agreed (77 per cent) that mental health issues are ‘a normal part of life’ but worryingly 59 per cent said they would not seek professional help if they were to experience mental health problems themselves.
Jude McCann, chief executive officer of the Farming Community Network, believes despite the good work done in trying to breakdown associated stigmas surrounding mental health, more still needs to be done to lessen its taboo status.
He says: “While the stigma is gradually being lessened, there are still many farmers who feel that they shouldn’t talk about their personal problems or don’t want to burden anyone else.
“It’s important that farmers make the time to look after themselves and their personal wellbeing. Talking to others about your experience can make a huge difference and seeking help before things escalate can ensure that a farmer doesn’t reach a crisis point. We must continue to normalise conversations around mental health.”
“Farming tends to be male dominated and many men think they have to ‘man up’, be strong and all those masculine kind of words."
Sally Storr, Norfolk-based counsellor for The YANA Project, said she was not surprised by the poll results and believes gender stereotyping can make it difficult for men to seek support.
“Farming tends to be male dominated and many men think they have to ‘man up’, be strong and all those masculine kind of words.
“I think this is already being broken down by prominent people opening up and sharing that they have had feelings of anxiety and depression, which is very helpful.”
Some farmers may be concerned seeking help for mental health issues may result in them losing their gun licence, says Dr Caroline Knott, consultant psychologist.
“This is not the case unless there is an identified risk associated with harm to self or others. It is possible to work machinery, drive a car, have a gun licence and work as a professional while receiving treatment for mental health problems.
“It should not deter people from discussing it with their GP or other health professionals to get advice.”
While there may still be some stigma attached to talking to a professional about mental health problems, links between the Covid 19 lockdown and mental health had been widely documented and was considered more socially acceptable she adds,
“Support and guidance has been provided for Covid-related mental health issues but the symptoms are almost the same as those related to farming so we need to highlight the similarities and normalise the impact on mental health and talk about it.”
Those issues included isolation, financial worries, increased stress and uncertainty.
“The potential dangers of not seeking help can include relationship breakdown, deterioration of physical health, increased alcohol consumption, poor concentration and attention to farm safety, which can lead to an increased risk to self if not supported.”
If you or a family member is struggling with any of the above worries then call Farming Community Network on 03000 111 999. You will be able to talk to a sympathetic person who understands farmers and rural life and can help support you through tough times.
Farming Community Network
Directory of National Rural Support Groups
British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy
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