More than 80 per cent of farmers under 40 believe mental health is the biggest danger facing their industry with PTSD, loneliness, rural isolation and Brexit all linked to the struggles workers are facing, new research released today reveals.
The Farm Safety Foundation has revealed 84 per cent of farmers under the milestone age believe mental health is the biggest danger to their profession - up from 81 per cent in 2018 - when there were 83 suicides amongst people working in the agricultural and related trades across England and Wales.
The charity has released the concerning statistics as part of its third annual Mind Your Head campaign which aims to raise awareness of the issues facing farmers and the link between farm safety and mental health.
This year’s campaign will focus on the physical and mental wellbeing of an industry under pressure, and aim to educate those living and working in the UK’s agricultural communities about the various mental health threats facing them.
It also aims to bring public attention to issues such as ‘smiling depression’, PTSD, loneliness, rural isolation and mental health in young farmers.
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Stephanie Berkeley, Manager of the Farm Safety Foundation said: “It is encouraging to see more discussions about mental health, more awareness of the various mental health conditions and more emphasis on the support available to the farming community, however more still needs to be done.
“Whilst farmers are often culturally ill-equipped to discuss mental health issues, one of the most effective methods in combating stigma is talking about it. This is what we have been doing and will continue to push, especially this Mind Your Head week.
“It is vital to build a culture within agriculture that explicitly recognises how the job can impact on the wellbeing of farmers and their families and conversely how poor mental health can have a direct and deadly impact on the job.
“Let’s be clear, this isn’t someone else’s responsibility, this is on our watch and, in these challenging times, it’s down to each and every one of us to look out for our friends, colleagues, neighbours and ourselves.”
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Research by the charity has found the farming industry is facing many stress factors which are placing increasing pressure on workers and putting them at greater risk of mental ill health.
These include extended amounts of time working in isolation, a blurring between work and home life, and financial uncertainty. Brexit, changing consumer habits, and the climate crisis present further threats to the industry.
The total income in the UK from farming decreased by a massive £971 million between 2017 and 2018, and 42% of UK farmers would have made a loss between 2014 and 2017 without direct payments from the EU.
As part of the charity’s campaign, information on how to tackle poor mental health in the farming industry will be available on its website and on various social media channels, where they can access stories, advice and links to services available to help them.
Farmers are being urged to take advantage of free health checks to help cope with the strains of the industry which are heightened during the dark winter months.