Farmers have been urged to put themselves first and get behind a new campaign championing the need to speak up about mental health.
The five-day #MindYourHead campaign, running February 12-16, was launched earlier this morning by The Farm Safety Foundation to help raise awareness about the farming community being one of the industries worst affected by depression and suicide.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than one farmer every week in the UK takes their own life, with suicide levels almost twice the national average for crop harvesters and livestock farmers.
Under 25s are also often just as vulnerable as over-65s to rural isolation, it said.
Charles Smith, chief executive of the Farming Community Network, said: “When it comes to important farm safety equipment, people usually think of tractor roll bars, shedding gates for livestock and high-vis clothing.
“But there is another piece of kit, which when used properly, is even better – the mind.
“It is very easy to underestimate just how important the mind is when it comes to farming. Along with the body, it is, without doubt, the best bit of kit a farmer can have.
“However, if your mind and body are not well-maintained, as well as your machinery, it is very easy to become less conscious of the dangers around you.”
The campaign hopes to increase understanding of how to support those dealing with mental health issues and educate people on access to advice and guidance in local areas.
It said farmers often did not have ‘such a good track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing’.
Former president of the Wales Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs and international rugby referee Nigel Owens backed the initiative after suffering from mental health issues in his mid-twenties.
Speaking from experience, he said failure to open up often leads to anxiety and depression.
“This mind is a powerful tool which can be positive and helpful, as well as negative and destructive,” Mr Owens said.
“I am delighted to support the Mind Your Head campaign because the farming community need to know they are not alone and that there should be no taboo about asking for help.”