Stephanie Patel BVetMed MRCVS, Molecare Veterinary Services
Earlier this month, several vets from our practice attended a meeting on the well-being of the Devon farmer, co-ordinated by the #RU Well Aware? campaign.
This was attended by different agri-professionals from bankers to machinery sales people. The aim of this meeting was to raise awareness of the mental health of those who work in agriculture. A study of farmers in Ireland found that 72% of farmers would not want others to know that they had a mental health problem, and with 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health difficulty, it is certainly something that needs to be made aware of and talked about. With the growing concern about the effects of Brexit on the farming industry, along with stress and financial pressures, farming communities need to support each other. It is important to not only look out for others but yourself, and take the time to notice how you are feeling and to share your emotions with others around you, as pride is what prevents 90% of farmers from opening up.
Things to look out for that can be an indicator of mental illness are difficulty in sleeping, headaches, appetite change/change in weight, substance abuse, loss of interest, constant worrying, being self-critical and many other changes. It is important to talk to someone, and this could be someone you know or alternatively there are many helpful numbers that can be called which will be listed at the end of this article. As someone who may be trying to help a friend or relative, there is great emphasis on allowing that person to speak and just have a calm presence and listening. Instead of trying to cheer the person up, and sharing stories about yourself, it is much more helpful to listen and allow them to open up which can be guided with open-ended questions. It is always important however to guide them to professional help.
Mental health can be linked to various different risk factors, but it is essential to balance this out with protective factors such as having and maintaining a social network, eating well, being active and taking time to relax. And don’t forget to sleep! All of these factors improve our resilience to the everyday grind and challenges that we face.
There were lots of interesting and thought provoking information said during the meeting, but a particular comment that stuck with us all, is that the person suffering doesn’t need someone to try and drag them out of their black hole, as it isn’t a quick fix, instead climb into that hole with them, sit and listen, as we are able to get back out.
General Practitioner- local doctor or NHS- walk in
‘Talkworks’ (Devon Partnership NHS Trust)
Tel: 0300 555 3344; www.talkworks.dpt.nhs.uk
Livestock market chaplaincy
- FCN- farming community network – [email protected] or 03000 111 999 (7am-11pm)
- RABI – supporting farming families – www.rabi.org.uk or 0808 2819490
Talking therapies: Counselling Directory
Samaritans – 116 123 (free number)
Supported by the NFU