Farmers in financial crisis were at increased risk of mental and physical breakdown as they tried to solve their business problems by working longer hours, it was claimed.
And with farming having one of the highest incidences of suicide of any profession, it was crucial those weighed down by business and personal crises came forward to seek help.
That was the message from a meeting looking at the causes and solutions of rural stress, organised by the Farming Community Network (FCN) and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and held at the head office of solicitors Wright Hassall, Warwickshire, last week.
Charles Smith, FCN chief executive, said: “Farmers do not always make decisions in the same way a general business would because their whole family is often invested in it. It is a way of life, not just a business.
“Many farmers struggle to change because their father has told them the farm should be run in that way. How does someone with a pedigree herd of dairy cattle be the one to make the decision to sell up?
“Often, when farmers get in to financial difficulty, the reaction is to work harder and longer which causes [physical] ailments which may not have happened ordinarily. There are also health and safety issues as they take shortcuts in their work.”
Mr Smith said FCN’s work on mental health in the rural community was rising against a backdrop of the industry’s current price problems.
Becky Davies, RABI’s West Midlands lead, said the organisation could provide financial support in the form of one off grants, longer term aid or even help negotiating the benefits system for those who needed it.
“There is often a reluctance by farmers to accept help even though the situation is dire,” she said.
Paul Rice, head of agriculture and farming at Wright Hassall, said it was vital for people concerned about a family member, friend, neighbour or business contact who they suspected of suffering from stress to come forward to organisations such as FCN or RABI.