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Growing levels of farm paperwork ‘significant factor’ in mental health issues

Mental health has hit the headlines this week following warnings increasing levels of paperwork was contributing to heightened stress and anxiety among farmers.


Lauren   Dean

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Lauren   Dean
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Growing levels of paperwork a ‘significant factor’ in mental health issues

Agricultural solicitor Kirwans made the remark during Mental Health Awareness Week (May 14-20) in which it slammed what it called a ‘mountain of red tape’ for provoking continuous feelings of worry and unhappiness.

 

It coincided with a report from Farmers Guardian last week where In Your Field writer Phil Latham said the burden of TB bureaucracy was too much to deal with.

 

David Kirwan of Kirwans law firm said: “Farmers have really got it tough at the moment with a number of factors causing them huge concern.

 

“Not surprisingly, the never-ending uncertainty around Brexit continues to be a worry, but there are also other issues at play.


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“Pressures of work are causing marriages to break up, succession planning issues are tearing families apart, but it is the bureaucracy of the state I believe has become the most significant driver in the mental health issues of the farming community, causing real distress among farmers and their families.”

 

Depending on the business, farms can currently be inspected by as many as five different bodies, including the likes of the Rural Payments Agency, Natural England and the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

 

Mr Kirwan said it placed a ‘huge weight on the shoulders of farmers’.

Only in February this year the Office for Natural Statistics (ONS) revealed more than one agricultural worker a week in the UK dies by suicide.

 

‘It is okay to say’

“It is so important that they [farmers] seek professional advice to navigate their way through the red tape that is currently strangling so many of them,” Mr Kirwan added.

 

The reminder was reiterated by the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) which encouraged farmers ‘it is okay to say’.

 

FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “The focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is on stress and farmers across the country will be all too familiar with that.

 

“But we must break the stigma attached to mental health, so if you are feeling vulnerable please open-up and speak to someone.

 

“That does not just mean today or over the course of this week, but always.”

MHAW18: How Frontier is breaking the taboo

Frontier has pledged to give a penny to charity for every tonne of grain purchased ex-farm from UK growers during Mental Health Awareness Week for the second year running.

 

All fundraising will go towards helping raise awareness of the importance of mental health and the money will be split between the Addington Fund, Farming Community Network, RABI and RSABI, Mind, Anxiety UK, BEAT and Sane.

 

People will be shaving their heads, abseiling from grain silos, organising inter-departmental quiz nights and hosting bake sales.

 

Sharon Kennett, host of the Responsible Choice steering group said: “The response to Mental Health Awareness Week last year here at Frontier was phenomenal. It really struck a chord with us.

 

“Since last year we have kept that conversation going and we have also provided training, professionally delivered by BUPA, for all our line managers to help them spot and support anyone facing mental health challenges.”

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