#AgMentalHealthWeek brings out best in farmers

Farmers around the world are being encouraged to help one another overcome the challenges they face during Ag Mental Health Week (10-16 October).

Growers and livestock producers across the globe are posting supportive messages and videos on social media.

Podcast: How #AgMentalHealthWeek is improving wellbeing on the farm (Listen from 42 mins 38 secs.)

Ag Mental Health Week is the idea of Irish dairy farmer Peter Hynes whose wife Paula helped him overcome depression.

Mr Hynes, from West Cork, said it occurred to him that agriculture loses more people to suicide than it does to farm accidents.

“The response has been absolutely phenomenal,” he told Farmers Weekly.

See also: When, how and why farming charities Rabi and FCN can help you

New figures from The Farming Community Network (FCN) show that nearly half of the calls made to its support helpline over the past four months have related to poor mental health.

This includes stress and anxiety caused by issues such as financial concerns, family relationship problems, Brexit uncertainty and Covid-19.

Poor mental health is now frequently the most common factor in calls presented to the helpline from members of the farming community.

FCN is a voluntary organisation that supports farmers and their families.

Concerns around mental health and wellbeing were a factor in 52% of calls in June, 53% in July, 47% in August and 45% in September.

In April, 56% of all calls presented to FCN were related to Covid-19, and the pandemic has remained a source of concern for the farming community in the following months.

FCN chief executive Jude McCann urged farmers to pick up the phone and talk about any issues.

Contact The Farming Community Network

FCN’s helpline is: 03000 111 999. Open every day of the year, 7am-11pm

Challenging year

Ms McCann said: “This data presents an important insight into the lived experiences of farmers throughout England and Wales this year.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many farmers and their businesses and 2020 has also brought a range of other challenges, such as flooding and drought in different parts of the UK, poor crop yields and concerns about the short and long-term effects post-Brexit rural policy may have on the industry.

“All of these heighten feelings of stress and anxiety.”

The FCN said it wanted to promote openness and reduce the stigma around talking about mental health and wellbeing in farming.

Farmers are being encouraged to join the conversation next week on social media using #AgMentalHealthWeek.

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