Farmer Focus: It is OK not to be OK

This has been a month of two extremes – one very high and one very low.

The high was the visit from Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal as patron of the QMS Scotch Beef Club.

Princess Anne was very interested in our farming system and was obviously very knowledgeable about agriculture in general and the Scotch Beef and Lamb we proudly showcased.

See also: Poll: Have you ever hidden a mental health problem?

It was a real thrill and pleasure to meet her and the whole family had a great day.

I thought that made me the second member of the family to meet royalty. My uncle, William Fegan, received his MBE for services to agriculture from the Queen in the 1970 New Year’s Honours.

However, I was third. My mother in-law casually dropped into conversation one night that she had met prince Philip when she was a young girl working for the ministry of defence.

The lowest of lows

The low was a massive low. On the morning of the royal visit, we got word that one of our young vets had taken his own life. I’m still stunned to even be writing this.

Always smiling and happy to chat for a while, with a career obviously on an upward trajectory, it was a complete shock to everyone.

His brother gave a wonderful eulogy in which he told us that no one should ignore suicide. Suicide is the main killer of men under 45 and we should all be willing to, and be able to, stand up and say “it’s OK not to be OK”. 

Everyone feels they have the hardest job, but what about the others?

Maybe the salesman who is being pressured to make unachievable sales; maybe the contractor who lies awake worrying about their next hire purchase payment; maybe the vet who gets torn to shreds by the farmer because they couldn’t be a god and save his best cow.

We never know what is going on behind someone’s eyes and we need more “do unto others as you wish done unto yourself”.

When someone wants to chat, we should all find time to chat and, more importantly, listen.

You never know, you could be helping someone more than you think. It’s OK not to be OK.

If you or anyone you know need support, contact RABI.

Michael Shannon finishes 150 head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise, as well as free-range turkeys for Christmas, near Biggar, Lanarkshire. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious, with surpluses sold deadweight.