Yorkshire farmer reveals why it's important to talk about mental health after attempting suicide

A North Yorkshire man who attempted suicide has revealed how the experience made him realise how important it was to talk about mental health in the rural community.

Michael Brown, who grew up on a farm and now runs his own agricultural business, said it wasn't until he attempted suicide that he even realised anything was wrong with his mental health.

He said while growing up in a rural community is fantastic, many people still suffer from the isolation and remoteness of where they live.

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Mr Brown said: "Up until my suicide attempt, I didn’t think I had any problems. It’s only after getting the help I should have sought before that it became apparent that I was in a really dark and lonely place.

Yorkshire has fantastic rural communities - but it can have an impact on mental healthYorkshire has fantastic rural communities - but it can have an impact on mental health
Yorkshire has fantastic rural communities - but it can have an impact on mental health

"The rural community is fantastic but there is isolation and remoteness - you don’t see anybody new, you don’t get to know what’s going on and that’s difficult because you’re not coming across people to talk to. I’ve learnt how important it really is to talk.

“I think it’s naturally harder for men to open up, particularly men in rural communities, where there is still stigma around talking about mental health. That’s why I go out and speak to men about my experience and encourage them to talk early on if they are struggling.

“Finally opening up was the start of the flood gates opening. Up to that point, everything in my head was going round so fast. As soon as you talk to somebody, your problems halve.

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"Straight away, you’ve opened up, your problem is not yours anymore, you’ve shared it with somebody. That makes life so much easier, and it makes it easier to go get additional help if you need it. It was a long, hard journey but we got through it and we go forward each day.”

He spoke out after a new poll suggested men who live in the countryside are less likely to seek mental health support compared with men in the city.

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Samaritans said men in rural areas appear to be put off seeking help due to a perceived stigma around mental health, not knowing who to turn to, or lack of awareness of support available.

A survey carried out by the mental health charity found that just over two in five (43 per cent) men who live in the countryside would be willing to reach out for support or talk to someone if they were struggling with their mental health.

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This compares with half of men (51 per cent) in urban areas, according to the poll of 2,000 adults across the UK.

Six in 10 women who live in the countryside would seek help if they were struggling.

It comes as Samaritans and the National Farmers’ Union Mutual Charitable Trust are working together to reach men in rural communities who are struggling with mental health issues before they reach crisis point.

Samaritans said evidence suggests that suicide rates are higher in countryside areas compared with urban areas, and rural-based occupations, such as those in agriculture, have also been shown to have an increased risk of suicide.

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Paul McDonald, executive director of external affairs at Samaritans, said: “Samaritans is here for anyone struggling to cope, no matter who you are or where you are.

“The increased risk for those living in rural and agricultural settings due to poor access to services, isolation and persistent loneliness mean it’s essential we do more to reach people in these environments.”

Jim McLaren, chairman of NFU Mutual, said: “As a farmer myself, I’m all too aware of how isolation is affecting rural communities.

“Finding a safe, non-judgmental space to explore their feelings could be a person’s first step on their journey to looking after their recovery.”

People in need of assistance can call Samaritans free of charge 24 hours a day on 116 123, or by visiting https://www.samaritans.org/

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