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LAMMA 2021

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Young farmer quits job to prioritise his mental health

A young farmer has described his difficult decision to quit his job and prioritise his poor mental health to help break the stigma. 

James Hosking, 28, grew up on his family dairy farm in St Buryan, Land’s End, Cornwall, which used to milk 120 cows, plus beef and young stock.


He started working on the farm when he was 12 years old, and had to deal with a shock bereavement at the age of 15, when his uncle Sandy died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm in his mid-30s, three months after his first and only child was born.


He wrote: "This was the first time I had to deal with loss and grief. I dealt with it by working almost constantly – this was my distraction.


"After all, life for the cows carried on as normal, they always needed milking and farming never stops for anything.


"Less than 12 months after, my grandma, who was a huge driving force for the farm, died of cancer.


"I could sense the farm starting to struggle after this time. My reason to live started to crumble around me.


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"Little did I know that our family tragedies were not going to end here.


"When I was 17, we received a phone call that my Auntie Fleur, who was the widow of my uncle Sandy and mother of my cousin Ross, had a nasty accident and sustained life-changing head injuries after falling down stairs.


"She was moved to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, which specialised in treatment for head traumas.


"My father and I rotated days working on the farm with travelling to Oxford to visit her. I had to skip college regularly and worked long labouring days on the farm.


"The farm, which had already started struggling, was becoming more of a problem as family life pressures were mounting while the dairy industry was in decline.


"Money was tight and we were not making enough profit to get us out of the rut we found ourselves in.


"We did not want to lose our home, so we had to make the extremely tough decision to downscale and sell up our dairy production.


"This was the only way we could ensure stability for our grieving family."




On April 7, 2011 the last dairy cows left the farm and the reality of everything hit Mr Hosking the next day.

"Everything was empty and silent. No cows mooing, no mixer wagon turning, no milking parlour in action – the sounds that once comforted me were gone," he wrote.

"As college came to a close, I tried to replace the feelings of emptiness by throwing myself into work again.


"This time as a bar and restaurant manager further up in Cornwall.


"I started spending more time socialising at the young farmers club. But I noticed people were avoiding me and I felt I was being constantly judged for being a “failed dairy farmer”.


"Even with friends and family standing by my side, my mood became so low I even contemplated taking my own life.

"I thought moving further away from home would help, so I took a job in Aylesbury, but I soon realised trying to run away from my feelings and associations with depression did not work, and I took them everywhere I went.


"I returned home to my family."




Not long after, Mr Hosking took part in an #AgriChat Twitter discussion on mental health and shared his true feelings for the first time.


"This is when I realised I was not alone," Mr Hosking said.


"I had messages of support from all over the world. This marked a turning point.


"Days went by and in 2013 my auntie Fleur lost her battle with brain damage and passed away.


"I learned that bottling up my feelings would only feed my inner “demons”, so I talked.


"I started engaging in more mental health discussions and even publicly shared my story.


"I was truly overwhelmed with love and support and also had other people reach out to me for help themselves.


"My goal of getting just one person to open up and seek support filled me with drive, as I personally knew how much of a big step this was to make."




Mr Hosking also re-entered the dairy farming industry, milking cows.


"It was never quite the same milking someone else’s cows, but it was a glimmer of hope," he said.


"I also ran my own DJ business “DJ Pasty Co Industries” which has become successful, especially in the young farmers community.



But in September 2019, Mr Hosking was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and had to make the ’difficult decision’ to move away from farming and put his physical health first.


"Now I am still here. I am 28 years old, working as a dairy sales specialist for B. H. White and Son. I love my job and I have a wonderful life with my fiancée here in Launceston," he added.


"We are due to get married next year.

"It has been a rough road until now, having to make sacrifices for both my physical and emotional
wellbeing, but being able to talk about mental health has kept me away from the dark patches and I can focus on the positive parts of life."






Stephanie Berkeley, Farm Safety Foundation manager, said: " The decision to leave a job for the sake of your mental health is a massive one, that comes with the weight of shame and guilt.

"Stress and anxiety can make you feel tired, empty, weak, incapable and unsuccessful.


"If someone breaks their leg playing five-a-side football, the person will dine out on the tale about how it happened.


"Everyone will offer their best wishes for a speedy recovery and check in with the injured person every so often.


"However, when it comes to mental health matters, there seems to be a discomfort and reluctance to talk about it.


"There is an underlying shame when talking about depression, burnout and anxiety. This makes the situation worse, causing the person to feel even more alone with no one to turn to."


For more information about the Farm Safety Foundation’s Mind Your Head campaign, click here, go to @yellowwelliesUK, or search #MindYourHead.


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