Advice for farmers battling mental ill-health
Mental health is a subject that unfortunately attracts so much stigmatism.
But it is time to change this!
With campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health, there is a clear need for more awareness in today’s society, with more and more people suffering with mental ill-health.
Whilst I am not quite ready to share my experience with you just yet about battling anxiety and depression for many years, I am proud to say that I am currently in an incredibly positive place.
It is for this reason why I am joining the bandwagon (to put it colloquially) and spreading awareness about mental health on my blog, especially when considering that agriculture is a high risk industry for suicide, with farmers statistically less likely to seek help.
Tip number 1: Talking
Yes, it is horrible to talk about your mental health battle to family/friends/professionals.
I speak from experience.
It is never easy to admit that you cannot cope, that things are getting on top of you, that you simply can’t go on. In fact it is pretty damn hard to do and takes an incredible amount of courage.
Yet trying to cope alone ended up making my depression and anxiety more severe in the long term.
In hindsight, I wished I had opened up sooner and got the help I needed rather than letting it get so serious.
My advice, as a young farmer and someone who has experienced these terrible diseases first hand, is to just talk to someone.
Whilst I know how lonely and isolating the countryside can be (when the only other life-form is sheep), there will always be someone or something to talk to; for instance, your best friend at YFC, the auction mart café waitress, amazing charities such as RABI and FCN, professionals like doctors, strangers (phone-lines are always available) and even your beloved sheepdog!
After all, farmers LOVE to talk and are always up for helping someone wherever and whenever they can. It is an industry that has a strong community vibe, so don’t be afraid to utilise your auction mart visits.
Getting your feelings out of your mind and into the open is such a relieving feeling and whilst you may encounter close-minded people (I know I certainly did and I let them prevent me seeking further help!) openness is key to recovery and is the reason why talking is my number one tip for mental health sufferers.
Tip number 2: Keep on going
It can be incredibly hard to just keep on going when fighting your mental health on a daily basis. I certainly found it draining: I was disengaged with everything, had no appetite and wanted to sleep all the time. This meant my hobbies and studies suffered as a result.
Farmers suffering from mental ill-health may know this feeling of giving up when faced with daunting, daily routine chores.
Thoughts like ‘there is no point mucking out the cattle shed today, it’ll be covered in crap again tomorrow’ may run through their minds leading to further points such as ‘whatever I do is pointless and will make no difference’.
By ignoring this negativity and getting stuck in with daily tasks, the farmyard can offer a great distraction from the troubles occupying the mind, making you rationalise the initial problems and their consequences once you have had some time to rethink them.
So, my number two tip is keep on going. You have got this!
And if you find yourself lacking motivation, a good distraction will take your mind off your problems and allow you to rationalise it later.
Tip number 3: Be yourself
My final tip is to be yourself.
There is no need to be constantly comparing yourself to others, whether it’s about friends, jobs, relationships etc. It is a fruitless exercise – the ‘the grass may be greener on the other side’ kind of thing.
Yes, others may be good farmers, have the latest machinery, are popular in the YFC scene, or have fantastic stock, but being envious won’t make you feel any better – in fact, it’ll make you feel worse!
Moreover, chances are, that they too have some area of their ‘perfect’ life that they would do anything to change. Like you.
So the solution is simple. Just be you and do your own thing – being an individual is far better than another sheep!
I embrace my difference, and so should you.
So those are my three top tips! Guaranteed that they aren’t the easiest, but they were the most effective for my mental health battle.
I hope they are useful to you.
Let’s smash the stigma surrounding Mental Health and remember that’s it’s okay to not be okay!
Helplines to call in the UK if you/ family/ or a friend is struggling with mental health:
- Royal Agricultural Benevolent Society (R.A.B.I) – 0808 2819490
- Farming Community Network: 0845 367 9990
- Mind: 0300 123 3393
- Mental Health Foundation: 020 7803 1100
- Farming Help (Frontier): 03000 111 999