‘Mind Your Head’ tackles mental health barriers in farming

The Farm Safety Foundation’s annual Mind Your Head campaign returns for its sixth year this week, with a rallying call for farmers and industry to work together to tackle the root causes of stress, anxiety and poor mental health.

This year’s campaign runs from 13 to 17 February and comes at a time when growing pressures and uncertainty have contributed to a deterioration of mental health within the sector. The Office for National Statistics reported 36 farming suicides in England and Wales in 2021.

Farming charities: Who to call to get help 

Rabi 0800 188 4444

Rsabi 0808 1234 555

FCN 03000 111999

Yellow Wellies 01789 455198

Bringing together more than 300 farming organisations and charities, the week-long event strives to break down the stigma associated with mental health, bypassing the invisible barriers that prevent some farmers from seeking help.

See also: Video: Son’s death leads family to back mental health charity

Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation (aka Yellow Wellies), said: “Our research shows that levels of mental health in farming are deteriorating and it is being propelled by – in addition to many other things – the current political climate, stress caused by Covid and its aftermath, spiralling costs and continuing barriers to adequate care for many people living and working in the rural community.

“Urgent action is needed to support the ongoing mental health of our farmers.”

A survey of more than 900 farmers found that 94% of the UK’s young farmers believe mental health is one of the greatest, and most hidden, challenges facing the industry – a figure that has risen from 84% in 2019.

Yellow Wellies is encouraging farmers to get involved and share their stories using the #MindYourHead hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information, visit yellowwellies.org.

Parents of tragic young farmer join the campaign

Andy and Lynda Eadon, from Warwickshire, lost their son Leonard, a student at Harper Adams University, who took his own life in January 2022 aged just 22 years old.

A year on, the couple are passionate advocates for mental health in agriculture and have given their backing to Yellow Wellies’ Mind Your Head campaign. They are using their own heart-breaking experience to raise awareness of the signs of poor mental health and how to help someone find the confidence to seek the support they need.

The couple have created the Five-a-Day Challenge in Leonard’s memory.

Lynda said: “When Leonard died, it became a very strong feeling that we had to do something to bring people in the farming community together to talk. This is why Andy devised Five-a-Day Challenge – five very simple things you can do every day to look after your mental health.

“Our hope is that, because Leonard was so well known and it shocked so many people, we want people to keep talking about it and keep remembering him and realise that they need to be aware of what they’re feeling and reach out if they need it. There is no shame. There is no stigma. But there is support.”

So far, more than 18,000 of the bright-red Five-a-Day challenge cards have been distributed to markets, young farmers’ clubs and through the NFU Student Farmer magazine.

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