Coleraine BDG puts the focus on mental health and wellbeing

Graham Cooke, Rural Support mentor; Jude McCann, Chief Executive, Rural Support; Patrick Cudney, Extension Director, Michigan State University; Adam Watson, BDG host; Zara Morrison, CAFRE Adviser.
Graham Cooke, Rural Support mentor; Jude McCann, Chief Executive, Rural Support; Patrick Cudney, Extension Director, Michigan State University; Adam Watson, BDG host; Zara Morrison, CAFRE Adviser.

Adam Watson milks 120 cows along with his father, on their farm near Coleraine.

Back in 2016 Adam struggled with the stresses and pressure of a falling milk price and other life issues that were having not only an effect on the family business but on his own health.

When it all got too much Adam was pushed to a point where he considered taking his own life, but thankfully with help from his wife and family he is now in a better place.

During Mental Health Awareness week Adam published a daily blog. The aim of this blog was to explain Adam’s experience of living with depression and to provide a better understanding and encourage people to talk about their own mental health with others. It was during that week that he decided he wanted to share with his own Business Development Group (BDG).

Coleraine BDG recently met for a barbecue at Adam’s where, along with CAFRE Dairy Development Adviser Zara Morrison, he outlined to the group how he now copes with the stresses and pressures of dairy farming. Adam explained that he tries to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep and exercise, as well as continued social interaction. However, he did comment that everyone is different so what might work for him might not work for someone else, but it is important to seek help.

Jude McCann, Chief Executive of Rural Support and Graham Cooke, a Rural Support mentor both gave a background into the work of the organisation. They detailed how it helps farmers with a range of issues including financial problems, inheritance planning and physical and mental health concerns.

Throughout the meeting there was lively discussion relating to mental wellbeing and how stress can be relieved, as well as how to approach someone that may have a problem.

Patrick Cudney, Director of Michigan State University attended the group meeting as a guest while visiting Northern Ireland.

He commented that mental health is becoming an increasing issue in America. He was delighted to see that the BDG was addressing the issue, allowing farmers to discuss the subject, accept that it’s all right to seek help, and realise that they are not alone.

Research carried out by the Farm Safety Foundation suggests that 81% of young farmers believe mental health concerns are the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today. Therefore it is important that people feel comfortable about talking about it. Adam’s blog and this BDG meeting is a step in the right direction, breaking the stigma that is so often associated with mental health and wellbeing.

Adam’s blog can be read online at: adams2016.home.blog.

If you have been affected by any issues and would like help to deal with them, contact Rural Support on 0800 138 1678.