A whole cocktail of factors makes farmers vulnerable to stress, but troubled minds can be overcome with the right support, consultant psychologist Dr Caroline Knott told an audience of farming and industry supporters at the Future Farmers of Yorkshire’s #Fit2Farm event.
Family members can offer crucial support to help an individual relieve mounting pressures, but only in a culture of open communication where problems are openly aired and solutions shared, Dr Knott said.
More than 100 attendees at last week’s event at Pavilions of Harrogate heard that the industry’s suicide rate is disproportionately high compared to other industries.
Dr Knott said that despite research showing that those who had lost their lives had engaged with health professionals at the same rate as other people about physical health issues, those same patients had not necessarily taken the same opportunity to open up about their mental health.
As part of a progressive bid to improve safety across their industry, the Future Farmers’ #Fit2Farm campaign has challenged the farming community to be more mindful of the importance of their physical and mental health, and has urged farmers not to suffer in silence when they are feeling down.
Dr Knott, of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation NHS Trust, said: “Recognise the early warning signs of stress. Support can improve the wellbeing of the entire family, so ask for help.
“All of us can suffer from stress, all of us can recover from stress but it is about identifying it clearly and looking for and knowing there is support.”
She said it was important for farmers to look at what problems they can directly influence and accept the things that they cannot immediately change. She explained that a good way to start that process is to write down a list of everything that is causing you to feel stressed.
Factors contributing to levels of stress in farming include a poor work-life balance, the impacts of climate change, volatile commodity markets, flooding, disease outbreaks and stock losses, isolation and rural crime, Dr Knott said.
Sometimes, poor mental health can outwardly manifest in physical symptoms such as eczema, back pain and headaches, she said, however there needs to be a greater perception of the brain as an organ that also requires attention and support.
Unchecked, ailing mental health can have serious consequences on farms, Dr Knott warned.
“People who are really stressed, really tired… that’s when you get a farm accident, that’s when risks are taken, that’s when people who are lone working do that extra thing and think it will be fine, and that’s why we have so many accidents on the farm.”
Click here for all the blogs and vlogs produced for the Future Farmers of Yorkshire’s #Fit2Farm campaign, including the thoughts of Stuart Roberts, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union, and Will Evans, host of the Rock and Roll Farming podcast.
Who to contact if you require support:
Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI): 0808 281 9490
The Farming Community Network (FCN): 03000 111 999
Samaritans: 116 123
Shout: Text Shout to 85258