After the tragic death of her husband, Emma Picton–Jones launched a foundation to improve mental health awareness among farmers in Wales.
Her vision way exceeded expectation and the 31-year old mother of three, who is from Clarbeston, near Haverfordwest, has galvanised agricultural communities and inspired struggling to seek help to address poor mental health.
On July 5 2016, Emma’s world was turned upside down just minutes after waking from her sleep.
“Until then I was an average 28-year-old, married with two children and a full-time job, juggling the stresses of everyday life,” she recalls.
“But that morning I woke up to find my husband Daniel missing. He had suffered with his mental health for a long time, but I still did not expect what had happened. Daniel had taken his own life. My world was thrown into a spiral.
So many questions were unanswered and an uncertain life faced my family. Daniel, an agricultural contractor, had suffered with mental health issues his entire life and despite his calm, happy exterior, inside he was crippled with anxiety and depression.
He never felt there were any options for him, he felt he couldn’t talk to anyone as no one would understand.
“He left a lengthy note, mostly comprised of statements depicting his state of mind. But there was one element of his letter which really stayed with me.
He wrote: ‘You weren’t able to save me but you can try and save someone else’.
“This sentence swam around in my head and the day after Daniel’s death, I set up a charity called The DPJ Foundation to support others suffering from mental health problems in Wales.
“I wanted to use his name to make a difference. Agriculture carries one of the highest rates of suicide and the foundation aims to break down the stigma that surrounds mental health and provide support services.
“We decided our work would focus on Pembrokeshire, a rural area with particular disadvantages for those suffering with mental health problems. It is a community where everyone knows everyone and admitting supposed frailties isn’t an option.
The DPJ Foundation has raised £150,000 so far, through donations and fundraising events and has helped raise awareness of Share the Load – a 24/7 telephone and counselling service for people with mental health problems in rural communities.
Emma has gone to deliver mental health training to industry professionals including vets, feed reps and nutritionists to offer them the tools to support those farmers see on a daily basis.
“It is widely known farmers are a stubborn breed and we hope by taking the support to them, rather than waiting for people to seek it themselves, we can provide help for those in need.
On receiving the Farmers Guardian Farming Hero award, Emma said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won this award.
“To be recognised among the farming community feels fantastic. For me, I also feel it is a great opportunity for mental health to be at the forefront of the community’s mind.
“Mental health is one of the leading issues within our sector and I hope that this will help spread the awareness of looking after your mental health and encourage those who are struggling to seek help.”