Farmers Guardian received this submission from a farmer who has been battling mental health issues and wanted to share his experience anonymously in the hope it may encourage others to seek help.
I have read about mental health in the press and the odd campaign here and there. But I have never felt that anyone has quite hit the nail on the head in describing the experience I have been through (though I probably did not realise I was having my own mental health struggle at the time).
I have tried to understand what I have gone through, by using the analogy of a bad back.
A bad back and agriculture go hand-in-hand and we have all had one from time to time in one severity or another.
Some get over it in a day or two with some rest, some seek professional help and others put up with it, keep on working and it niggles them forever. For others, it gives in completely and they are powerless until they are rested, have taken medicine and seek professional help.
I always thought I had a strong ‘back’.
My farming career had never been straightforward, coupled with personal losses.
When I had been under pressure my go to position was to work harder and longer and my ’back’ took it.
I was never afraid to take on other projects on and off farm as I had a strong ’back’ that relished challenges and I actually thought with greater experience my ’back’ was stronger. And it probably was.
I felt my ‘back’ was weakening a year to the day after I lost my father. I guess a combination of adrenaline and not really actually taking the weight of the loss made me feel okay when I was not.
Speaking to the doctor over the phone, I was given prescriptions, but I felt no benefit.
Sometimes people put their back out and are incapable of what they did before without a real rest and real care. That happened to me.
I later saw an amazing doctor who saw straight away I had put my ‘back’ out seriously and saw I was going to need all manner of different things, plus time to get me back to dealing with challenges again.
My ‘back’ is better, but not there yet. I will probably never put it under the same pressure again, but thanks to that doctor I am still here.
We are a proud industry, but my pride is what almost broke me.
We have all had a bad back and looked after ourselves until we are fit.
If we have a bad back, colleagues and family can see it and they tell you to rest, they nag you to take some pain killers, they will do some of your work for you and if you are really bad, you go to a health care professional as that is the only way you can get your back fit and well again.
Why is mental health any different? Because you can’t see it, you don’t walk badly when you are depressed, you don’t struggle to get out of the chair you may not show any outward signs at all in fact quite the opposite out of pride you show nothing.
We need to move to a place when we tell people we need a break for broken mind and I really believe like a physical problem, the sooner you get the right help - and that might just be a rest - the sooner you will be fully fit again.
We need as individuals, as organisations and as an industry to start to treat and accept mental health in the same way as any other ailment.
It really is okay not to be okay. Please do not suffer in silence.