Over the past few years, many have debated whether the stresses of agriculture and the pandemic would result in an increase in suicide rates. Although those concerns, fortunately, do not seem to have come to fruition overall, these stressors are pushing the need for good mental health care and suicide prevention strategies to the forefront.
In an industry where 34 farm workers lost their lives in fatal farm incidents in 2020/2021, there were a total of 44 suicides registered in England and Wales in those working in the farming and agricultural industry in 2020 according to the Office of National Statistics.
Suicide leaves its mark on those left behind in a particular, peculiar and devastating way and one person who knows all too well is Alice Hendy, a 30 year old cyber security specialist from Hampshire who lost her brother Josh on 25th November 2020 to suicide at only 21 years old.
After Josh’s death, Alice was looking through his phone and discovered that her brother had been researching techniques to take his own life via harmful internet searches. This alarmed and upset Alice who decided that something needed to be done to ensure more help and support was available for anyone searching for harmful content online.
She conducted several hours of research and collated figures relating to harmful online searches and came up with the idea of implementing a tool which would intercept anyone searching for this material online and signpost them to support services. Out of this tragic experience, R;pple Suicide Prevention was born…
Alice explains: “R;pple is a browser extension which provides an interception when someone is searching for harmful content online relating to suicide or self-harm. It provides them with a message of hope and directs them to one of the numerous support facilities that exist, to let whoever is searching for the content know that they are loved and that there is support for them 24/7.
“Through R;pple, an individual feeling despair and researching harmful content will be urged to instead seek the mental health support they deserve and need in a way that works best for them.
The browser extension, which launched in September 2021, has proved a huge success and has been downloaded over 100,000 times, with schools, colleges, universities, parents, carers, and charities able to download R;pple, free of charge, across the UK.
Alice continues; “It is difficult to measure how, or if, this is helping those at point of crisis but we do know that 22 individuals from across the UK have approached us to let us know that the tool intercepting them online at their most vulnerable point has actually saved their life and that they are now receiving mental health support.
“The existence of R;pple will significantly reduce the number of people who go on to take their own lives following a harmful online search. These searches can add a level of vulnerability to individuals by reinforcing their feelings, legitimising their thoughts, and providing users with the ways and means to act on their contemplations.”
With 92% of young farmers, and 84% of older farmers, rating poor mental health as the biggest hidden danger facing farming today, we know that financial concerns, rural isolation and long and highly pressured working days can result in dangerous impacts on farmer’s mental health so, if those living and working in the industry get to crisis point, R;pple can intervene.
As someone who has been through an immeasurable tragedy, Alice remains positive about how we can all work to tackle the issue of poor mental health within the farming industry.
“If you’re reading this and you’ve noticed unusual behaviours in a loved one please speak up. Talk to them about what you’ve noticed and tell them that you care and want to help. If it appears that they are struggling, direct them to a service that can offer hope and support to manage the situation before it develops into something far worse. Support services can be found at www.ripplesuicideprevention.com/support
“If there is any possibility of preventing anyone else going through with this and stopping any other families from experiencing the pain, we will have done our job.”
If you are a farmer, living in a rural community, a member of the Young Farmers Clubs network or involved with a land-based college or university in the UK, you can find out more about R;pple and how it works by visiting www.ripplesuicideprevention.com or emailing email@example.com