Men­tal health of farm­ers is ‘over­looked’

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - ATH­WENNA IRONS ath­wenna.irons@reach­plc.com

FARM­ERS are be­ing urged not to suf­fer in si­lence when it comes to men­tal health, as the in­dus­try strives to open up the con­ver­sa­tion and re­verse stigma around the is­sue of men­tal well­be­ing.

It comes as statis­tics re­leased by the Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive on Wed­nes­day iden­ti­fied stress, de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety as sig­nif­i­cant causes of ill-health along­side mus­cu­loskele­tal dis­or­ders and lung dis­ease.

The re­port out­lined that the over­all ill­ness rate for agri­cul­tural work­ers is 46 per cent higher than the in­dus­try av­er­age, with the av­er­age cost of ill health and injury in agri­cul­ture es­ti­mated at £293 mil­lion.

Stu­art Roberts, vice-pres­i­dent of the NFU and chair­man of the Farm Safety Part­ner­ship, said: “We all know that agri­cul­ture has a poor track record when it comes to phys­i­cal in­juries in the work­place, and the FSP is work­ing with the in­dus­try to re­verse this. But what we have of­ten over­looked is our men­tal well­be­ing.

“Bri­tish farm­ers and grow­ers are in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate about the role they have in pro­duc­ing safe, trace­able and af­ford­able food for the na­tion.

“Yet the en­vi­ron­ment they work in can of­ten leave them feel­ing iso­lated, and the stress that comes with fi­nan­cial pres­sures, out­breaks of dis­ease, volatile weather, as well as Brexit un­cer­tain­ties, can leave farm­ers feel­ing vul­ner­a­ble.”

Mr Roberts called for men­tal well­be­ing to be treated as we would a phys­i­cal injury. “If you’ve pulled a mus­cle you rest it, if you have back pain you go and see a doc­tor,” he said.

“But first we must be able to recog­nise when there is a prob­lem and we must be able to talk about it.”

The Farm Safety Part­ner­ship, made up of key stakeholders with an in­ter­est in farm safety in­clud­ing auc­tion­eers, train­ing providers, farm­ing press and ma­chin­ery deal­ers, aims to lead­er­ship to im­prove the safety of farms and al­lied in­dus­tries.

It is also work­ing to re­duce the num­bers of deaths and ma­jor in­juries to farm­ers, work­ers and any­one else coming into con­tact with farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Mr Roberts said the Farm Safety Part­ner­ship has set a tar­get of re­duc­ing fa­tal­i­ties on farm, but in or­der to achieve this the in­dus­try as a whole needs to open up.

“The part­ner­ship is work­ing to in­crease the con­ver­sa­tion about men­tal and phys­i­cal health so our minds and bod­ies can be kept safe in our place of work,” he con­cluded.

Richard Austin

Alistair Cope and his son, Se­bas­tian, prove that there are not many places you can’t cy­cle your Penny Farthing as they pass a Devon Long House in White­ford, in East Devon, where au­tumn colours of bril­liant red leaves cling to the out­side of the build­ing

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