BBC highlights farming’s mental health challenge

Farmers have praised the BBC for highlighting poor mental health in agriculture as one of the “unspoken challenges” facing the industry.

Farmers and farming families struggling with their mental health were featured on the BBC 10 o’clock news on Monday (15 April).

See also: Where farmers in need can find support and help

About one agricultural worker a week takes their own life across the UK, according to a BBC analysis of figures from the Office of National Statistics.

“When you can’t see another way out – when you can’t see another alternative – it does cross your mind,” said 22-year-old Ayrshire dairy farmer Jonathan McCamley.

Mr McCamley’s father Allan admitted to having similar thoughts.

No shame

Many farmers don’t seek help when it comes to mental health – even though farmers in the film said talking about it could lighten the load.

But Mr McCamley said poor mental health was nothing to be ashamed of.

“It is something that happens to people and it needs to be rectified.”

The news item also featured Emma Picton-Jones, who set up the DPJ Foundation to support farmers in Wales after her husband Daniel took his own life in 2016.

BBC reporter Gareth Barlow – himself a former sheep farmer – said: “It is a great existence living in the great British countryside, but it can often be lonely and isolating.”

Difficult topic

He added: “You don’t make it to birthdays, to family parties – you don’t make it on holiday with your friends.”

A longer version of the news item has been edited into a short film, called Farmers on the Edge, on the BBC website.

The film has been praised for the way it tackled a difficult subject.

Farming organisations – including the NFU, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union – said it had highlighted an important topic.

NFU combinable crops chairman Tom Bradshaw described the film as very moving.

All farmers should watch and share it as widely as possible, he said.

“Help is available.”

Evolution Farming chairman Duncan Rawson said “For many farmers, life can be a very lonely and difficult experience.

“Mental Health is a real issue, but not one we should be scared to talk about.”

A number of farming charities and support groups for farmers in times of need are available.