Mental health and farming highlighted in new Teagasc booklet

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Pictured: Desiree Koldehoff, Dairymaster; Derry Dillon, president, Agricultural Science Association; Ned Harty, Dairymaster, and Pat McCormack, Greenane, Tipperary, deputy president ICMSA.

Pictured: Desiree Koldehoff, Dairymaster; Derry Dillon, president, Agricultural Science Association; Ned Harty, Dairymaster, and Pat McCormack, Greenane, Tipperary, deputy president ICMSA.

There was a huge emphasis on farm safety and mental health at the National Ploughing Championships, with Teagasc teaming up with Mental Health Ireland to launch a new booklet specially aimed at farmers.

The book, Coping with the Pressures of Farming, will be a valuable reference for those dealing with farmers on a day-to-day basis such as agricultural advisors, vets, DAFM officials, banks, suppliers, accountants and solicitors who must be aware of the mental health impacts of financial burdens and other issues affecting the mental health of rural dwellers. The publication will provide a signpost to a mental health service for clients in difficulty. It will also be a valuable resource for farm families.

Staying well mentally is just as important as staying well physically and Teagasc said that the publication had been researched and collated to address the many and varied issues that contribute to stress when not properly handled.

The booklet was launched by Mairead McGuinness, MEP, who said:“This is an important and timely publication. It provides the tools to allow farming families to identify the symptoms of persistent stress, but more importantly what to do about it.”
She commended those involved in compiling the booklet and urged farming families to use the information and supports outlined in it and learn how to recognise the symptoms of stress and take steps to manage or reduce it.

“Supports are available to rural people through professional counselling, financial advice, and farm management expertise. I'm sure it will be a helpful resource for rural dwellers in taking that first step in dealing with the pressures in farming,” said Ms McGuinness.

The MEP particularly welcomed a growing openness to acknowledge that life can at times seem difficult and stressful and that farming, with its many uncertainties and sometimes solitary natures of work, can be especially stressful
“No one should suffer on their own and this tool will see to it that help and support is available,” she said.

Barry Caslin from Teagasc said: “The dynamic of farming has changed considerably, with the pressure on farmers either to scale up or ship out. Financial pressures often lead to increased stress and pressure on family relationships.”

He said that Teagasc understood very well the concerns of farmers who were suffering under huge pressure, quite often farmers who had taken on loans to invest in their enterprises which they are now trying to repay.

“Those farmers and many others may find it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I think that there are times when we should take a step back and look beyond such financial pressures and feel comfortable talking about any mental health concerns they may have,” said Mr Caslin.

Also speaking at the launch Finola Colgan, Mental Health Ireland, said: “Mental Health Ireland is very pleased to be in partnership with Teagasc in this new publication that is reaching out to members of our rural communities.”

She said that providing relevant and comprehensive information on core farming matters and  health and well being was important.

“A book of this nature is a valuable resource as the information contained in it is helpful for people at times of crisis and can reduce a sense of loneliness and isolation,” said Ms Colgan.

The booklet was launched in the same week that the latest Irish Farmers Journal / Red C poll indicated that 20 per cent of farmers had been affected by suicide.

The poll, which was conducted among 1,000 farmers nationwide, also revealed that farming is still the most dangerous profession in Ireland.

Accounting for just 6 per cent of the overall workforce, approximately 60 per cent of the workplace deaths in Ireland occur on farms.

Almost one in three (31 per cent) of those surveyed said either they or a close family member had been involved in a farming accident.