You are here: News > Insights

You are viewing 1 of your 2 free articles

You’ll need to join us by becoming a member to gain more access.
Already a Member?

Login Join us now

'I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I didn't want to be here'

As part of our new series to raise health awareness within the farming community, we talk to two individuals with two very different experiences of mental health issues.

Twitter Facebook

Jenna Ballantyne, 30, from Strathhaven, works at Lanarkshire Market and is secretary at Lanarkshire Holstein Club and Lanark and Peebles Sheep Breeders Association. She was diagnosed with depression and sought treatment.


She says: “Admitting to yourself you are ill with depression is the first hurdle. The second, is seeking the help and guidance you require – and sooner rather than later. The third is facing everyone else. “Having already had undiagnosed depression back in 2008- 2009, the signs were all there, and this time a lot worse. “I had a short, sharp temper.


Some days I didn’t want to get out my bed to go to work, or even go out on the farm, and I love both of these. “I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and didn’t want to be here – a scary thought when you think back.


“You ask yourself what caused it all the time and I put it down to a multitude of things – a relationship break-up, peer pressure, a lack of support from individuals who seemed to think I was a robot, although many still seem to think I am. I have learned I have to slow down.


“Just because you are not showing you are ill on the outside, doesn’t mean you are not ill on the inside. But the pain on the inside is so much harder to heal and a very long process – it’s not just an overnight illness.


“You can patch up a cut with a plaster. With depression, you can’t, and as it is, I run the risk of it coming back again in later life. “I had great support from close friends and help from my mum. I began taking tablets, which are not a quick fix, but they do help, and I had a very understanding doctor, too.


“I was signed off work for just over two weeks, not nice over Christmas and New Year when you should be filled with cheer and not sorrow. “Unfortunately, all I wanted to do was sleep. I ate what I wanted and when I wanted. I was allowed no alcohol, or the side effects could end in tears and reverse the good the tablets were there to do.


“I carried on life as normally as possible, with a two-farm lambing and calving to contend with over the spring months.


“I love showing my Texels and Beltex sheep at shows, but with everything going on, these had to get cut back only attending the smaller, more local shows and taking a year out from Ayr Show and the Highland Show.


“The girls looked after me and we still attended Balmoral Show, Royal Highland Show and Great Yorkshire Show. I was determined this illness wasn’t going to stop me from having a life and I wasn’t going to sit about and wallow.


“Show circuit friendships and the banter we had is the best cure and helped get me on the road to recovery. I was never embarrassed about having the illness, in fact I told people when I saw them.


To say they were shocked was an understatement, but it is amazing how much a ‘smile’ and a ‘happy attitude’ can cover up. People did laugh about your behind you back, but at the end of the day, I will always be the stronger person for coming out the other side and I got my life back on track.


“Now, moving forward, I am a lot better, with a different attitude to life. I no longer take tablets, my relationship with my parents is the strongest it has ever been and we talk a lot more now than we ever did. I just take each day as it comes. Most days are good days now, but I still get the occasional bad one, and deal with it as best as I can.


“My advice to anyone who thinks they may be suffering from depression is to firstly admit to yourself that you have a problem, then secondly find the courage and go and talk to your doctor, who will help you get on to the road to recovery, and to not be afraid to talk about it – more people have depression than you think, but tend to bottle it up rather than open up.


Don’t be afraid to speak up – help is available.”

Symptoms of a mental health issue

  • Low mood – sadness, frequently tearful or unable to cry
  • Anxiety – worrying obsessively, or out of proportion to the problem
  • Changes in appetite (loss of appetite or increased appetite)
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Lack of energy/feeling tired
  • Reliance on alcohol
  • Lack of interest in family and friends
  • Unable to enjoy hobbies
  • Confused thinking, poor concentration and difficulty in making decisions
  • A change in personality, such as uncharacteristic aggression
  • Negative thoughts

Emma uses her husband's death to save others

main body

After the tragic death of her husband, Emma Picton– Jones launched a foundation to improve mental health awareness among farmers in Wales. “On July 5 last year my world was turned upside down.


Until then I was an average 28-year-old, married with two children and a full-time job, juggling the stresses of everyday life. “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 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. “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.


Mental health problems are too often perceived as a weakness and not talked about. “Pembrokeshire also has a huge agricultural community. Farming is a male-dominated industry and one of high stress, especially in recent times, as bovine tuberculosis rates hit crisis level and many farmers face plummeting milk prices.


The DPJ Foundation has raised £18,000 so far, through donations and fundraising events. “Initially this money is being used to train people within the agricultural sector in mental health awareness.


By training vets, feed reps and others who work in the industry, it is hoped we can give them the tools to support those they 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.


“The DPJ Foundation is very much in the early stages of its development, but we already have plans for counselling support and group support work next year. “We hope another family will not have to suffer the loss mine has.”


  • Treatment options include self-help projects, such as exercise, books and computerbased treatments; talking therapies which aim to identify negative thought patterns and learning to react pro-actively
  • Medication is also an option and is known to be effective, safe and non-addictive
  • A visit to the GP will determine the right method of treatment once it is determined how your depression is affecting you mentally and physically
Twitter Facebook
Rating (0 vote/s)
Post a Comment
To see comments and join in the conversation please log in.

More Insights

Austrian family run successful dairy business with only 15 cows

There are few UK dairies which would be financially successful with only 15 cows, but for one Austrian family, processing and selling their milk has revolutionised their business. Emma Penny visits the Oberascher family to find out more.

North Country Cheviots flourish in the Peak District

Starting a pedigree flock from scratch brings many challenges. Chloe Palmer hears about the highs and the lows of establishing the Greenhills flock of North Country Cheviots.

Profit from Grass: Grazing takes precedence over grass cropping on Cumbrian farm

After a dry spring a flush of early summer grass brings its own challenges for the Stobart’s who farm near Armathwaite in Cumbria.

New research shows the difference in profitability between bulls and steers

Margins from bull beef, back to basics for grassland management, and using rather than just gathering data were talking points at AHDB’s recent Beef Live event at Harper Adams University. Simon Wragg reports.

Farming community need to focus on personal development as well as skills

The farming community have not traditionally focused on its own personal growth, but rather on technical skills and managing a business. In a new series of articles, business coach Lisa Boyd looks at why self awareness is important in helping yourself and managing others.
FG Insight and FGInsight.com are trademarks of Briefing Media Ltd.
Farmers Guardian and FarmersGuardian.com are trademarks of Farmers Guardian Ltd, a subsidiary of Briefing Media Ltd.
All material published on FGInsight.com and FarmersGuardian.com is copyrighted © 2016 by Briefing Media Limited. All rights reserved.
RSS news feeds