Today marks World Mental Health Day 2018 so no better time to continue the conversation about Minding Your Head…
When we launched our campaign back in February, we wanted to address one of the key objectives of the charity – To “preserve and protect the mental and physical health of farm worker, dweller, the rural community and all other affected by farming and agricultural accidents by providing facilities and support services.”
What we didn’t expect was to be genuinely touched and impressed by the level of support we received from other charities, organisations and individuals working hard in this area to help tackle the stigma of mental illness and their willingness to support our campaign. This support has continued throughout the year to the point that we have worked with The YANA Project on their Rural Support Directory which is available to download now from HERE.
We are constantly learning more and more about an issue which affects so many of our wonderful farmers and, following a distressing call we received from a farmer concerned about a member of his own team who was displaying some very worrying suicidal behaviours, Stephanie and Olivia decided that they needed proper training and have since trained to become Mental Health First Aiders.
Here are some shocking facts we discovered:
• One in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year
• Up to 10% of England’s population will suffer from depression at some point in their life
• 50 million people are affected by depression
• Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year
• Suicide is the 2nd largest cause of death among 15-29 year olds.
• Suicide is the most common cause of death for men between 20-49 years in England and Wales
• Over 90% of people who die from suicide have a mental health illness at the time of their death
Those who suffer from mental health issues rarely talk about it openly because they are scared of being judged and looked down upon.
Society has made mental health illnesses seem like a bad thing which is why people hide having them. This is why you might be thinking “if mental health illnesses are so common then why don’t I know anyone with any?”, trust me, the chances are that you do – you just don’t know about it.
Mental health illnesses are a lot more common than most people think so we have to keep talking about it and we have to keep raising awareness of something that leads one farm worker every week to take his/her own life.
There is no question that farming can be a highly stressful occupation and the industry is exposed to a unique set of circumstances and stressors. Farming does have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and stress is often a key factor in many of the accidents, injuries and illnesses taking place on farms.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Examples of issues that can cause stress in agriculture include:
• Weather not doing what is needed.
• Time pressures, “too much work, too little time” (especially during calving, shearing, silage, cropping).
• Financial pressures and uncertain incomes
• Unfair and/or unequal returns in the market.
• Rising costs and lack of support from being geographically isolated
• Relationship issues.
• Long hours, shift work.
• Having unclear roles and responsibilities, a promotion with more responsibility.
• Complicated or unpleasant tasks, poor training.
• Feeling isolated or undervalued.
• Bullying or harassment.
• Physical environment (for example, noise, dirt, dangers, poor equipment, working in bad weather, difficult animals).
• Juggling work and home life.
• Technology – it can be so frustrating and stressful, especially if it breaks down.
Everyone has mental health and everyone’s mental health is different as well as being constantly changing, depending on many different aspects.
Furthermore, everyone has a different reaction to stress, here are some of the more common warning signs that it’s time to manage your stress and consider getting help:
• Loss of enjoyment and interest in activities usually enjoyed.
• Loss of energy and constant tiredness.
• Persistent worrying about little things.
• Changes in sleeping patterns: sleeping difficulties despite physical exhaustion, or sometimes sleeping too much.
• Indigestion or stomach upsets.
• Muscle tension and pains (for example, lower back, chest, shoulders, joints, nervous “twitches” or muscle spasms).
• Skin itches or rashes for no apparent reason.
• Frequent sickness (for example, cold, flu and stomach bugs).
• Doing risky or careless things (excessive drinking, gambling, drug use).
• Feeling irritable, impatient or teary with no apparent reason.
• Finding it hard to make decisions and concentrate.
• A sad mood that will not go away despite good things happening.
• Isolation by avoiding people, places and events.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT STRESS?
In some cases, you may be able to remove the cause of stress. However, it is not always practical to change your workplace, where you live, or your relationships – but you can manage your body’s reaction to stress by learning new ways to manage or cope differently.
What you do may make the difference.
If you or someone you know is experiencing high and persistent levels of stress and would like further information or support, talk to one of the support groups in the RURAL SUPPORT GROUPS DIRECTORY or to your doctor about how you are feeling and explore what options are available to you.
The key is just to Speak Up!