Farmers have been encouraged to “take the first step” in coming forward and speaking about their mental health at a conference today (Monday, November 20).
‘Cultivating Mental Health Wellbeing in Rural Ireland’, which was held in the Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise, expanded from the rollout of ‘On Feirm Ground’.
Chief inspector for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Bill Callanan said that today’s discussion “brings home how fragile the human mind is”.
Senior research officer at Teagasc, Dr. David Meredith explored the research being done in the field of mental wellbeing within the farming community.
Teagasc research shows that 57% of farmers experienced stress over a five year period, with 13% of farmers reporting being stressed all or most of the time.
Poor weather and workload were among the most significant stressors for Irish farmers. The research shows that finance also causes stress for much farmers.
Assistant professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dublin City University (DCU), Dr. Anna Donnla O’Hagan said that there is poor mental health literacy among farmers, leading to poor uptake of supports.
Director of healthCORE at South-Eastern Technical University (SETU), Dr. Noel Richardson talked about rural isolation with “hard to reach groups” and a reluctance to seek support.
He said that existing structures and partnerships need to adapt to meet these challenges.
Young farmer and co-founder of ‘Make the Moove’, John Keane echoed these statements.
“It’s about the association that farmers have with the organisations and departments around them,” Keane said.
He said that farmers of his generation are “very active in talking about physical fitness and general health, but mind fitness is given little attention”.
Breaks for mental health
Keane added that there is a “culture” of thinking you’re not doing enough if you take a break or finish early.
National lead on farmer wellbeing for Mental Health Ireland, Finola Colgan said that it is important for farmers to create time away from the farm.
“We’re all human and none of us are an exception to stress or anxiety, but what’s really really important is to go and seek help,” Colgan added.
Colgan said one farmer might benefit from being involved in a sports club, while that might not help another farmer, so there is a need for a wide range of resources.
On Feirm Ground 2 was launched by Minister of State with responsibility for farm safety at DAFM, Martin Heydon, and Minister for Public Health, Well-being and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton at this year’s National Ploughing Championship.
On Feirm Ground brings together the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), the Department of Health, and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
It is also partnered by the Men’s Development Network, South East Technological University (SETU), and Men’s Health Forum Ireland.