Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2018
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.
Levels of depression in the industry are thought to be increasing and suicide rates in farmers are among the highest in any occupational group (ONS). In an industry with the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK, stress is often a key factor in many of the accidents, injuries and illnesses taking place on farms. Stress is something that many farmers face at some point and is an important contributor to mental health problems. It can come from many sources such as financial pressures resulting from market fluctuations, livestock disease or poor harvests, but concerns about Brexit, policies, administration and legislation can also take their toll. The situation is compounded by the fact that farming tends to be an innately conservative culture and some still perceive a stigma attached to mental health. This can hinder people’s willingness to speak about the issue and to seek help for themselves.
The Farm Safety Foundation’s inaugural ‘Mind Your Head’ Campaign aims to encourage farmers and farming families not to neglect themselves, but to put themselves first, ‘open up’ and get some help and advice on whatever concerns they have. The Farm Safety Foundation is bringing together key organisations in the industry to work together for this campaign in the hope that farmers and their families know where, when and how to seek help when they need it.
After an extraordinary journey from the depths of depression to one of the most universally respected international rugby referees, former president of the Wales Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Nigel Owens (46), from Carmarthenshire, is all too aware of how easily things can get out of hand when you don’t open up and you allow stress to take over your life.
In his mid-twenties, Nigel lacked self-esteem about the way he looked and he was ashamed about being homosexual. Coming from a small farming community, he did not want anyone to know and did not know where to turn. This led him down a dark path where he became addicted to steroids and suffered from bulimia. On one particular occasion he tried to commit suicide at the top of BancyddraenenMountain, overlooking the village he had lived in all his life, Mynyddcerrig. Thankfully, he didn’t succeed and he received help to get him mentally well.
Nigel said; “The mind is a powerful tool which can be positive and helpful, as well as negative and destructive. If we don’t open up and talk about how we’re feeling and what we are struggling with, we end up doing ourselves damage mentally and the longer that goes on for, the more there is the potential to become anxious and depressed as I well know. I’m delighted to support the ‘Mind Your Head’ Campaign because the farming community need to know they are not alone and that there should be no taboo about asking for help.”
The Farm Safety Foundation is bringing together key organisations in the industry to work together for this campaign in the hope that farmers and their families know where, when and how to seek help when they need it.
For more information on ‘Mind Your Head’ visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter/Facebook using the hashtag #MindYourHead