Farmers and rural charities have been urged to consider mental health and well-being in terms of peak performance and optimisation.
High performance psychologist Crede Sheehy-Kelly told conference goers at a RearingToGo mental health event, Halls Shrewsbury Livestock Auction (September 13), that they should be tackling the issue from a systematic perspective.
She said: “One thing that kept coming up is that mental well-being is key to performance.
“Feeling more fulfilled is a result of looking after your mental well-being and we want to empower people to become more pro-active in that.
“It is about peak happiness.”
When asked about what they felt were the key challenges in the industry today, farmers and charity representatives at the workshop highlighted uncertainty, animal and environmental activists and negative press.
Others said they felt challenged by animal disease, isolation and loneliness, and ‘not feeling valued for what we do’.
“It is not just about how you are feeling, it is about how you are functioning,” Ms Sheehy-Kelly said. “It comes back to our thoughts, our emotions are our behaviours.
“A preventative approach is so important. Find your triggers.”
Stephanie Berkeley of Yellow Wellies said when her team of three started the Farm Safety Foundation, they were told not to talk about mental health ‘because it puts people off coming into the industry’.
But Irish dairy farmer Peter Hynes, who is behind the RearingToGo movement, said resilience and speaking up was key.
He said: “We have to be, as individuals, and as farmers, resilient, and look after our mental well-being day-in and day-out, because like it or not, we are going to be challenged.
“By being pro-active when those pressures come, we know how to look after ourselves. I urge our industry to shout from the rooftops about how much support there is in our community.”
NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes added the NFU was committed to reducing the stigma around mental health.
“If we can go out there and give [people] permission to actually know that it is alright to talk about it; whether it is financial, whether it is relationships, whether it is the weather, it is about sending that message out until it becomes acceptable and until it becomes normal,” he said.