Ending the stigma around mental health in farming is essential if the industry is to address the rising trend of depression and suicide.
A targeted week-long campaign, Mind Your Head (February 11-15), has seen high-profile farmers and industry chiefs team up with rural charities to speak up about their own struggles in a bid to get others talking.
It came as research by the Farm Safety Foundation found 81 per cent of farmers under the age of 40 saw mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing the sector.
Cases of depression were on the rise and the Office for National Statistics said suicide rates in agricultural workers were among the highest in any occupational group.
Charles Smith, chief executive of the Farming Community Network, which is working alongside the Farm Safety Foundation to highlight the importance of farmers looking after their mental health, said: “There are so many challenges facing the farming community that even the most resilient and determined farmers may struggle to keep on top of things and are seeking help.
“It proves how poor mental wellbeing can affect anyone. As an industry, we need to change our preconceptions about mental health and realise seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a strength, and that there is always help available. Talking is often the first step towards overcoming adversity.”
Ninety per cent of farmers said pride prevented farmers from opening up, with 80 per cent considering mental health as a sign of weakness.
Former NFU Scotland vice-president and dairy farmer Gary Mitchell said his personal experiences with mental health were triggered last year when he became victim to his own thoughts of ‘not being good enough’.
Mr Mitchell cut his days with the union down to one a week, working mainly with the dairy board, and spent the rest of his time working at home on-farm.
He said: “If you are not happy you need to take action now. It is so important to have someone to talk to and say ‘I am not okay’.
“That is what we are lacking because we are a proud industry. But what we are going through now and what we are about to go through is very mentally challenging.”
HELP IS AT HAND
Farming Community Network
■ 03000 111 999
■ 0808 281 9490
■ 0300 111 4166
■ 01926 620 135
■ 116 123
You Are Not Alone (YANA)
■ 0300 323 0400