Farming’s Mental Health Crisis

Welcome to Mind Your Head 2020…

one week in the year when we shine the spotlight on our wonderful agricultural industry and the key element that is often overlooked when media stories are grabbing headlines… the people behind it.

In our first blog of the week, our Manager Stephanie Berkeley looks at how initiatives like Veganuary, continued Brexit uncertainly and falling farm business incomes are impacting those living and working in the industry and what help is available across the UK. 

“There is no point beating about the bush… we are in a mental health crisis. Levels of depression are thought to be increasing, stress-related calls to farming charity helplines are increasing and, in 2018, 83 suicides were registered among people working in agricultural and related trades in England and Wales (ONS).

It is little surprise that, according to our recent survey, 84% of farmers under the age of 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden danger facing the industry today.

 

When we asked the same question to 450 young farmers across the UK in 2018, 81% of respondents agreed with this statement however, over the past year, noise around mental health in the industry has continued to grow and people are starting to recognise the real impact of this issue.

Another interesting result of this year’s survey revealed that 85% of young farmers agree that there is a definite link between mental health and farm safety, and this is something that we will be highlighting in our third annual Mind Your Head campaign which runs this week.

Since we launched the campaign in 2018, we have been working to raise awareness and address the stigma of poor mental health in the agricultural sector and this year’s campaign focuses attention on the physical and mental wellbeing of an industry under pressure and asks those living and working in the UK’s agricultural sector do they know enough about the issue to offer any real help?

It is encouraging to see more discussions about mental health, more awareness of the various mental health conditions and more emphasis on the support available to the farming community however more still needs to be done.

One of the most effective methods in combating stigma is talking about it. Another is through education as discrimination in all its forms is born out of ignorance. This is what we have been doing and will continue to push, especially this Mind Your Head week.

Sadly, too often, the stigma around mental health prevents those who need help from seeking it, but there has never been a time when this has been more relevant. Farmers are often culturally ill-equipped to talk about mental health problems and, unlike an injured animal, depression cannot easily be fixed. The risk to farmers is greater than that of the general working population and is increasing over time in line with the growing demands and challenges of the job, a faster pace of work and diminishing resources and incomes.

This year’s video “The Last Word” will be launched today at 11 so please look out for it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share far and wide. The challenge this year is to build a culture within agriculture that explicitly recognises how the job can impact on the wellbeing of farmers and their families and conversely how poor mental health can have a direct and deadly impact on the job. We are working with many passionate partners to put farm safety and mental health on the agenda. Where would our agricultural industry be without the hard-working and dedicated people that live and work in it?

Almost one person working in agriculture or a related trade dies of suicide each week (ONS) so let’s be clear… this isn’t someone else responsibility. This is our watch and, in these challenging times, it’s down to each and every one of us to look out for our friends, colleagues, neighbours and ourselves.

stephanie_berkeley_zl4u2oa9Farming’s Mental Health Crisis