Mental health of farmers is ‘overlooked’
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.
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