Like many farmers, dairy consultant Andrew Jones didn’t tell anyone when he started suffering from depression.
He has chosen to speak out to Farmers Weekly in the hope that it will encourage other people working in farming to talk to about their mental health problems and seek professional help.
Andrew’s depression had been building up for a while, but got bad when he fell out with his father. At the time he was farming in Australia with his parents and had become a top dairy breeder.
But the fall-out meant he had to sell his cows and move back to Somerset.
“I can remember waking up every day and feeling like I didn’t want to get up, and crying my eyes out,” he says.
Becoming a herdsman meant he suddenly had time off and things started whirling round his head. Problems arose in his marriage and the depression was compounded when a cow he had bred in Australia was crowned Grand Champion Cow during International Dairy Week.
“At that point my cows were like my children. So it was like having your child win gold at the Commonwealth Games and not be able to be part of it.”
His marriage broke down and his depression started affecting his work.
“Because I had kept busy until that point, I had blanked it out, but it caught up with me. I was miserable all the time and found no joy in anything.
“Everyone is different, but often when you have depression you withdraw into yourself and don’t want to do anything. You tick things over in your mind and start getting paranoid about the smallest things.”
Counselling has helped
Things got so bad that Andrew considered taking his own life. Thankfully, he sought help from his doctor and has now been on medication and receiving counselling for nearly five years.
“Compared with where I was four or five years ago, things are relatively back to normal,” he says, although he thinks he will have to manage his depression for the rest of his life.
These days he occasionally talks to his close friends and his family about it.
“I’m a bloke, I was a farmer, I didn’t see people a lot and I was relatively isolated. Farmers work seven days a week, but once in a while you have to give yourself a day off, otherwise you will fall over.”
Give yourself a break and talk to your GP
“Farmers work seven days a week but once in a while you have to give yourself a day off, otherwise you’ll fall over. Everyone needs a day away with family or friends to completely forget about the farm and recharge.”
“Looking back, I would tell myself to do something about it sooner. Counselling definitely helps me – it is a chance to talk without feeling judged. A lot of depression is just things building up and up and making you stressed. Counselling gives you the chance to release it.
“Seek help. I know it’s not the easiest thing to do, but that’s what you have to do. Talk to your mates and loved ones and go and see a bloody doctor. ”