One UK farmer a week takes their own life, rural mental health charity warns

At least one farmer in the UK takes their own life every week, according to shocking figures which have come to light as part of a rural mental health campaign urging farmers to take better care of their mental health.

The Farm Safety Foundation, the charity behind Farm Safety Week, has launched this week-long initiative to raise awareness of mental health in the farming community and encourage farmers who need support to seek it.

It claims levels of depression in the industry are increasing and highlights that suicide rates in farmers are among the highest in any occupational group.

Stress causes accidents

The foundation warned that, in an industry with the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK, stress is often a key factor in many of the accidents, injuries and illnesses taking place on farms.

A spokeswoman explained: “Stress can come from many sources such as: financial pressures resulting from market fluctuations; livestock disease; or poor harvests – but concerns about Brexit, policies, administration and legislation can also take their toll.

“The situation is compounded by the fact that farming tends to be an innately conservative culture and some still perceive a stigma attached to mental health, hindering farmers’ willingness to seek help.”

‘Mind Your Head’

The ‘Mind Your Head’ campaign aims to encourage farmers and farming families to put themselves first, ‘open up’ and get some help and advice on whatever concerns they have.

Northern Ireland farming charity Rural Support is among those getting involved.

Rural Support chief executive Jude McCann said: “Agriculture can be a very lonely industry. Farmers often work by themselves day in, day out and that can take its toll.

“Isolation, combined with the stress of farming business, can have a dangerous impact on a person’s health, so we want farmers to know that there is always someone to help and someone to talk to.

‘No issue is too big or small’

“At Rural Support, we offer help to farmers on a wide range of issues from: finance and debt; succession planning concerns; physical and mental health issues; farming paperwork; technical and enterprise issues.

“No issue is too big or too small for us to discuss and to help with.”

Stephanie Berkeley from the Farm Safety Foundation added: “The pressures of farming aren’t going to disappear, so as a farmer you need resilience, smart strategies and specific skills to live well and farm well. The first step to improving your mental well-being can be as simple as talking to someone.”

If you have been affected by this story and want to speak to someone in confidence, Rural Support can be contacted on: 0845-606-7607. The helpline is available from 9:00am to 9:00pm Monday to Friday. Voicemail and support options are available at all other times.