• Young farmer Tom York is taking part in an Ultimate Triathlon on 30th June 2024
  • Tom is raising awareness of rural mental health and is spreading a positive and supportive message following the loss of a close friend
  • Tom has already smashed his fundraising goal in support of The Farming Community Network: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/tom-york-ultimate-triathlon

A young farmer is undertaking a challenging feat of endurance later this year to highlight mental health issues in agriculture – and to remind the farming community of a simple but powerful message: “You can push through”.

On 30th June Tom York, a volunteer with The Farming Community Network and a student at Harper Adams University (HAU), will compete in a gruelling ‘Ultimate Triathlon’: https://uktriathlon.co.uk/events/ultimate-triathlon 

The challenge, often referred to as an ‘Ironman’, comprises a 2.4-mile open water swim, a 122-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run, and takes place in Ellesmere, Shropshire – with athletes expected to take 10-18 hours to reach the finish line.

Tom talks openly about his own mental health challenges, as well as how his friendship group at Harper Adams University was devastated to lose one of their own to suicide.

Having worked on farms and in the wider agricultural industry alongside his studies, he says he can understand how the ‘highest highs and the lowest lows’ experienced by the sector can take their toll on a person’s psychological wellbeing.

Tom said: “If I’d realised how much help was available, I would have reached out much sooner, and now I want to encourage others to talk. I don’t want to dwell on the darkness, but the light that emerges from it.”

Tom describes the triathlon event as a “canvas on which to paint a story of triumph over adversity”, with a narrative that drives home the positive message: “You can push through”.

He believes the demanding nature of the triathlon mirrors the difficulties of coping with a period of poor mental health, and will use it to bring hope by demonstrating that with support and persistence, many challenges can be overcome.

He describes such vital support as coming from many different areas – friends, family, workplaces and organisations, as well as charities such as FCN.  

As a volunteer with FCN, he sees first-hand the pressures farmers are facing, and in his role with the charity he can reach out to help them.

FCN is a voluntary organisation and charity that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people in farming and provide support at times of difficulty and change. The charity has over 300 volunteers from across the agricultural sector.

Tom is encouraged by the support shown to him by his employer and university.

He is currently in his placement year at Wilson Wraight, Agricultural Management Consultants in Bury St. Edmunds.

Susan Doogan, Business Manager at Wilson Wraight, said: “Within our office, we have mental health first aiders who support our team and clients. The fact that our very own Iron Man, Tom, is taking on this gruelling challenge to further raise awareness and funds for FCN is fantastic. We’re all incredibly proud of him, and the whole team wishes him the best of luck.”

Having led fundraising events at HAU in the past to honour the friend he lost to suicide, Tom’s continued efforts are also applauded by his university community.

Professor Ken Sloan, Vice-Chancellor at HAU, said: “I’ve always been a keen follower of Tom’s charity work, and will be closely following his progress towards the Ironman challenge in support of FCN in June.

“The physical challenges Tom will be facing are immense. Talking to him, though, he’s keen for people to recognise that whatever challenging times they are facing, there is help out there through organisations like FCN – and that’s what will be spurring him on.”

Now in Week 12 of his six-month training plan, Tom regularly uploads videos to his social media channels to document his progress. He talks about the things he’s finding challenging, and the things that have gone well.

To view Tom’s progress, visit  Facebook Instagram or Just Giving, where you can make a donation.

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