Isolation and lack of work/life balance cited as factors in poor mental health rates by U.K farmers
Updated: Mar 4
I wasn't going to write about farmers again until I'd watched the 'Under the Soil' documentary that was mentioned on a recent Countryfile programme. But, there was another article on the BBC News page this Thursday which brought up a few more points, and since there is a terrible problem with suicide and mental health problems amongst farmers, I felt I should mention them without delay.
A young North Yorkshire sheep farmer who had been enduring a prolonged battle with his mental health, tragically took his own life in 2019. In an interview this week, a close friend cites isolation as a factor, since they were living miles from anywhere, and he didn't have a driving licence either, which made social contact and engagement extremely difficult.
We have seen from the restrictions caused by the pandemic that isolation can be an instigating factor when it comes to depression and mental illness, but there is another problem regarding suicide from isolation and that's to do with the illness itself.
Depression in itself isolates you, it's just one of the hideous effects it brings with it - it makes you feel disgusted with yourself and as though you have absolutely nothing to offer, so you retreat from life and avoid social contact at every opportunity.
This is why the messages in the media aren't coming from those who've been there - messages like 'keep up social contact', don't help the seriously depressed because they can't do it and it's not their fault either.
Another young farmer, James Hoskings, explains that he gave up farming after a family bereavement and had previously found that the relentless farming lifestyle had a negative impact on his mental health.
He mentions the same point that I made in my previous farming and mental health post and that's about being brought up to be tough, strong and not ask others for help. I think this is a very good point - we do need to educate people (especially men) to be more open about their mental health issues and to ask for help but there is so much more to it than that, since so many people have already been open, seen a doctor, and been prescribed medication yet we still lose them to suicide. The answer isn't just 'talk/seek help', I know that it's way more difficult to solve than that simple message we receive through the media.
The third young farmer to be mentioned in the article is Matt Launder, who tells us about the huge pressures involved in crop production, and how freak storms like the 'Beast from the East', that swept the country in 2018, can completely destroy crops, leading to financial ruin and subsequent mental health problems.
After reading this article, I have realised that there is another problem when it comes to mental health and farmers, and that's to do with the pride they feel for their farms themselves. Very often farms are handed down through the male-line from generation to generation and the thought of losing them to financial problems is enough in itself for a farmer to want to end his life. There's such pride involved in these things and that's something I don't think people really appreciate. When people say I'd rather die than lose my farm, or career or whatever it is, they really aren't joking.
The only reason I'm still alive is because I was prepared to accept a lesser version of myself - I completely gave up everything, lost my car, my career, every relationship, and every penny I'd ever earned, went to bed and suffered enormously for years and years. But why should people have to do this just to survive and not add to the statistics?!
The take out point is that severe mental illnesses are not survivable without effective medications, support and education. Sending out messages like 'talk' and 'socialise', are like putting a plaster on a broken leg - useless! We need advice from people who've survived now, not 'plasters' that do nothing to help the seriously affected. And yes, I can help with all of this I just need a following, so please share!
If you would like to read the BBC News article, I have attached it here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you again on Monday,