Farmers told ‘it’s okay to ask for help’

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Farming is a highly pressured, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week job, with hardly any time off or away from the farm.

Farmers typically spend long hours working in isolation with little or no human contact and it’s common for farmers to work entire days and not see anyone.

If you are under any sort of pressure, this isolation can lead to feelings of increased loneliness and can allow for mental health problems to fester. Isolation can be a year-round problem for farmers which can impact on emotional wellbeing and mental health. Farmers are dealing with uncertain times and circumstances which are often outside of their control such as market prices, risk of animal disease and unpredictable weather conditions can lead to increased feelings of hopelessness.

The pressure of needing to keep the farm going at all costs can weigh on a farmer’s mind – they don’t want to be the one who loses the farm and they can often think that ‘my father was able to do this and manage, as did the generations before him.’ But times have changed, the market for produce is no longer at the farm gate but is global. Technology has moved on, society has changed, workloads have increased with production rising, higher turnovers and traceability demanded more now than ever before. This increase in demand can lead to feelings of stress.

Symptoms of stress include disturbed sleep patterns, changes in appetite, unexplainable aches and pains and it can lead to depression. You may have difficulty with concentration or memory and you might appear irritable or agitated. Sometimes you might use alcohol or drugs to relax and may feel overwhelmed and isolated.

Alcohol can be an enjoyable part of life for many people who drink socially without experiencing any problems. On the other hand, there is a darker side to alcohol when it is used as a means of coping during stressful times, which can lead to alcohol being drank in excessive quantities. The effects of alcohol can numb the feelings of stress and anxiety and help you escape from reality for a time. However, when the effects wear off the situation is still the same, you have not addressed the root cause of the problem and so the cycle begins again.

Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. It’s recognition that we don’t have to and can’t solve every challenge by ourselves.

If you are struggling, for whatever reason, you are encouraged to call the Rural Support helpline now on 0845 606 7 607. The helpline is available from 8am-11pm, seven days a week (voicemail and support options available at all other times). Support is free and completely confidential.