Mental health is the "biggest hidden problem" farmers are facing a farm safety charity reports

More than 90 per cent of UK farmers under the age of 40 rank poor mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today, a study by the Farm Safety Foundation has shown
The report by the Farm Safety Foundation found younger farmers were feeling the strain mentally.The report by the Farm Safety Foundation found younger farmers were feeling the strain mentally.
The report by the Farm Safety Foundation found younger farmers were feeling the strain mentally.

The figures, which also showed mental wellbeing levels in the next generation of farmers have fallen over the past year, were released as part of the charity’s fifth annual Mind Your Head campaign.

Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation, which is also known as Yellow Wellies, said it was time the industry dealt with the issue of poor mental health “head on”.

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“We need to talk about our feelings and let everyone living and working in farming know that it’s completely ok to have feelings, good and bad, but it’s also important to let them out.

“Life isn’t always as it seems, we don’t post on social media about the days that we wished we didn’t get out of bed or the days we didn’t feel like it. Most people feel the pressure to keep up with everyone’s ‘perfect’ life,” Stephanie said.

“My father always advised me to never judge anyone unless you walked in their shoes, these are words that I live by, as it is important to know what is really going on behind the smile, or even their grumpy demeanour.

“Many living and working in rural communities are suffering and doing so in silence.

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“As an industry, it’s time to ease the pressure, stop expecting people to be perfect and start talking openly about feelings with people you trust.”

The recent study showed that mental health issues among farmers and agricultural workers are of growing concern and are having a direct impact on safety on farms with 92 per cent of farmers under the age of 40 suggesting poor mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today, an increase from 82 per cent in 2018.

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were a total of 44 suicides registered in England and Wales by those working in the farming and agricultural industry in 2020.

It also continues to be the industry with the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK with 34 farm workers losing their lives in fatal farm incidents in 2020/2021.

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“Figures like these are important in understanding the tragedy of suicide. They are not dry data, they are real lives lost, real families devastated. No figure, whether high or low, is acceptable.

“We need to beware of alarming claims and predictions without evidence – misleading and potentially harmful to those in the industry who are already struggling,” said Professor Louis Appleby, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Manchester and chair of the national advisory group on suicide prevention at the Department of Health and Social Care.

The Mind Your Head campaign, which was launched this week, is being supported by former Emmerdale star and 2019 Strictly Come Dancing winner Kelvin Fletcher.

The actor, who bought a 120-acre farm in the Peak District last year, said as a new entrant to the industry he appreciated the “many challenges” facing farmers at present and the importance of looking after mental wellbeing at work.

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“Before joining farming, I had no idea the community was so heavily impacted by bad mental health. Campaigns like Mind Your Head are so important if we’re going to chip away at the stigma that surrounds mental illness in the industry.”