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Exmoor farmer speaks out in candid new film about his mental health struggles

A well-known Exmoor farmer has spoken out about his story of dealing with mounting pressures on his farm while battling colon cancer.

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Oliver Edwards shares his mental health struggles in a bid to help other struggling farmers
Oliver Edwards shares his mental health struggles in a bid to help other struggling farmers

A well-known Exmoor farmer has spoken out about his story of dealing with mounting pressures on his farm while battling colon cancer.

 

In a compelling short film produced by The Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture Group (SMHAG), Oliver Edwards talked candidly about the enormous toll his problems had taken on his mental health, which left him believing the only solution was to take his own life.

 

He also admitted he found getting help difficult and shut himself off from others, believing he was a burden to those around him. But following his cancer diagnosis, the devastating news served as a ‘wake-up call’, which he said motivated him to ask for help.

 

The film, which is called The Hill Farmer, also highlights the role of vital support organisations and charities available to help farmers during challenging times, and support their mental health and wellbeing.

 

Oliver said: “I felt really down and couldn’t see any way out. I found it difficult to speak about what I was feeling. Those who aren’t from a farming type of world can struggle to relate, as they don’t know the same types of stresses that you might be under.

 

“I felt a bit foolish, and didn’t think others would understand the problems I was facing.

 

“I’m usually seen as being the stable person and the rock who others come to for help. When you’re in that role, it is hard to be the one to ask for help.

 

"If I’d spoken to somebody earlier about the stress of what I was going through, it could have really helped my mental state. I urge those watching to talk to somebody.”


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The road to recoveryThe road to recovery

Credit Autumn Films
Credit Autumn Films

Dedicated help for farmers

 

The powerful video highlights the role of support organisations and charities such as The Farming Community Network and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, dedicated to helping farmers through challenging times to support mental health and well-being.

 

SMHAG member Tod Merson, an FCN volunteer in Somerset, said Oliver’s story mirrored his own mental health problems but speaking out was the first step to recovery,

 

“When I experienced depression during my farming career, admitting it to anyone else was the hardest thing to do. It is also the essential first step on the path to recovery.”

 

Last month, a study by the Farm Safety Foundation revealed that 88 per cent of farmers under the age of 40 rank poor mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today. Eighty-nine per cent of young farmers believe that talking about mental health in farming will remove any stigma attached to it.

 

SMHAG’s chair, Becky Wright from New Leaf, runs mental health training courses throughout Somerset and the South West, believes the film will make an ideal training tool.

 

“The issues that Oliver talks about are central to an understanding of how farmers see themselves. I am developing a course which uses the film to help train others in giving support to the farming community.”

Oliver admitted he felt a burden to others around him and initially refused to open up about how much he was struggling
Oliver admitted he felt a burden to others around him and initially refused to open up about how much he was struggling

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.

 

For more information about the Farming Help charities visit www.farminghelp.co.uk/

 

 

Click here to visit the mental health hub

Sources of help

Samaritans

  • Telephone: 116113
  • Confidential helpline open 24 hours/ day, 365 days/year
  • Visit samaritans.org

 

Farming Community Network

  • Telephone: 03000 111 999
  • Confidential helpline open 7am to 11pm every day of the year
  • Visit farminghelp.co.uk

 

Directory of National Rural Support Groups

 

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy

  • Information on talking therapy, how it can help and how to find a therapist
  • Visit bacp.co.uk

 

RSABI

For more mental health support

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