'Mind your Head': Campaign looks at mental wellbeing within farming industry

Stress is often a key factor in many of the accidents, injuries and illnesses taking place on farms.
Stress is often a key factor in many of the accidents, injuries and illnesses taking place on farms.

A campaign that focuses on mental wellbeing in the farming industry has been launched amid increasing levels of depressing within the industry.

'Mind Your Head', a new campaign by Farm Safety Foundation, hopes to shine a light on the increasing depression levels and suicide rates in the industry.

It says such rates are the highest of any occupational group (ONS), and farmers do not have a "good track record" when it comes to taking care of themselves.

The Foundation says stress is often a key factor in many of the accidents, injuries and illnesses taking place on farms.

It says stress is something that many farmers face at some point and is an important contributor to mental health problems.

It can come from many sources such as financial pressures resulting from market fluctuations, livestock disease or poor harvests, but concerns about Brexit, policies, administration and legislation can also take their toll.

The situation is compounded by the fact that farming tends to be an innately conservative culture and some still perceive a stigma attached to mental health. This can hinder people’s willingness to speak about the issue and to seek help for themselves.

'Open up'

This brand new campaign aims to encourage farmers and farming families not to neglect themselves, but to put themselves first, ‘open up’ and get help and advice.

Former president of the Wales Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Nigel Owens, 46, from Carmarthenshire, is all too aware of how easily things can get out of hand when you don’t open up and you allow stress to take over your life.

In his mid-twenties, Nigel lacked self-esteem about the way he looked and he was ashamed about being homosexual.

Coming from a small farming community, he did not want anyone to know and did not know where to turn.

This led him down a dark path where he became addicted to steroids and suffered from bulimia. On one particular occasion he tried to commit suicide at the top of Bancyddraenen Mountain, overlooking the village he had lived in all his life, Mynyddcerrig.

Thankfully, he didn’t succeed and he received help to get him mentally well.

'Powerful tool'

Nigel told the Farm Safety Foundation: “The mind is a powerful tool which can be positive and helpful, as well as negative and destructive.

“From experience, if we don’t open up and talk about how we’re feeling and what we are struggling with, we can end up becoming anxious and depressed. I’m delighted to support the ‘Mind Your Head’ Campaign because the farming community need to know they are not alone and that there should be no taboo about asking for help.”

Over the week, the Foundation will be bringing together key organisations in the industry to work together in the hope that farmers and their families know where, when and how to seek help when they need it.

Organisations such as the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Rural Support and the Farming Community Network (FCN), a voluntary organisation providing pastoral and practical support for farmers and farming families, who are going through difficult times.