Farmers in the UK are grappling with a range of obstacles that are significantly impacting their mental health, according to farmer Sam Stables from Aconbury. Increasing costs, unfavorable weather conditions, and various pressures have pushed many farmers to work over 100 hours per week, leading them to reach a “crisis point.” Distressingly, some farmers have even resorted to taking their own lives. A recent survey has revealed that over 90% of British farmers under the age of 40 consider poor mental health to be a hidden problem in the sector. To raise awareness about mental health in the farming community, the Farm Safety Foundation has launched its annual Mind Your Head campaign.
The survey, conducted by the foundation in September 2023, found that 95% of farmers now recognize mental health concerns as a significant issue, marking a substantial increase from 84% in 2019. Farmer Daniel Bloomer from Shropshire highlighted the industry’s challenges and the tendency for farmers to keep their emotions bottled up. The nature of their work, often involving long hours of solitary labor, exacerbates these challenges. Both Bloomer and Stables have personally witnessed the devastating impact of mental health struggles within the farming community, including the tragic loss of friends to suicide.
Despite the difficulties, progress is being made in combatting the stigma associated with mental health in agriculture. Sam Stables and his wife have established a support network for farmers and their families, emphasizing the importance of seeking assistance and understanding that mental health issues are not the individual’s fault. To encourage open dialogue, farmers are encouraged to participate in the Big Farming Tea Break, an initiative that promotes face-to-face conversations. Additionally, the Farm Safety Foundation has created a national directory of support groups to assist individuals in accessing help and information.
It is crucial to provide resources and support to farmers who are facing mental health challenges. Organizations listed on the BBC Action Line can offer assistance to those affected by the issues highlighted in this report. By acknowledging the impact of these difficulties on farmers’ mental well-being and providing a platform for discussion and support, progress can be made in addressing this important issue within the agricultural industry.