Mental Wellbeing

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Whilst UK farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops and machinery, it appears they do not have such a good track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing.

The industry faces many stress factors, which are placing increasing pressure on workers and putting them at greater risk of mental ill health. These include extended amounts of time working in isolation, a blurring between work and home life, and financial uncertainty.
Last year 21 farm workers lost their lives due to accidents in the workplace (HSE) however, equally tragic is that, in 2021, there were 36 suicides registered amongst people working in agricultural and related trades in England and Wales according to the ONS.

Our latest research revealed that 95% of farmers under 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today. In 2018 we launched a campaign – Mind Your Head – to raise awareness of this growing issue in the industry and, since then, one thing has become evident; farmer health and wellbeing can not, and should not, be ignored – by any of us.

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.

We need to recognise that the job can, and does, impact on the wellbeing of farmers and their families and poor mental health can have a direct and deadly impact on the job.

This isn’t someone else’s responsibility, this is on 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.

What do we mean by mental health?

Sometimes people get intimidated by the words ‘Mental Health’ but it simply means anything to do with our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Everyone has mental health just the same as they have physical health but why are we happy to talk about one and not the other? People can keep this to themselves through fear of being treated differently or judged.

Mental health issues are a normal part of life. In any one year approximately one in four of us experience eat least one mental health issue. Mental health, just like our physical health, can vary from day to day. Issues can appear as a result of experiences in both our personal and working lives – or they can just happen.

How much do we really know about mental health?
Do we know the difference in the types of mental ill health?

Maybe we should read up about the various conditions so we can deal with it better and reduce the stigma. Some people still think that having mental ill health is shameful. They think it shows personal weakness, that they have failed. This self-inflicted stigma can make it difficult for people to speak about even their own mental health problems.

If there is one thing we have learned over the past few years of delivering Mind Your Head, that is that mental health issues do not discriminate; they can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, geography, income, social status, sexual orientation or other aspect of cultural identity.

It is important to create a culture in farming that promotes positive mental health, prevents people from experiencing mental ill health and helps them better manage mental health problems.

One of the key ways to do this is to ensure everyone can talk about mental health but it is also essential to know how to provide support. This might include knowing how to spot the warning signs and being confident to signpost colleagues to the support available.

dan parrMental Wellbeing