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Farming’s mental health epidemic

88% of farmers under the age of 40 rank poor mental health as biggest hidden problem facing farmers today (increased from 82% in 2018), a recent study reveals.

From 15th – 19th February 2021, the Farm Safety Foundation (also known as Yellow Wellies) is promoting its fourth annual Mind Your Head campaign to illustrate actions being taken to break down mental health barriers in farming.

A recent study by the Foundation, found that mental health issues among farmers and agricultural workers are of growing concern and having a direct impact of safety on farms.

In an industry where 20 farm workers lost their lives in fatal farm accidents in 2019/2020, there were a total of 133 suicides registered in England, Wales and Scotland in those working in farming and agricultural related trades, according to the Office of National Statistics and the National Records of Scotland.  These include farmers, managers, and proprietors of ag related services and those working in agricultural related trades and elementary ag occupations.

The farming industry faces many stress factors, which are placing increased pressure on workers and putting them at greater risk of mental ill health. During the last year, the coronavirus pandemic will have only increased the mental health effects on farmers and could continue long after the virus has gone.

In the study, it was also revealed that 89% of young farmers believe that talking about mental health in farming will remove any stigma attached to it (increased from 80% in 2018).

Stephanie Berkeley, Manager of the Farm Safety Foundation said: “Humans are social animals. We not only enjoy each other’s company, but we also thrive on it. Digital solutions have tremendous value, however we must not underestimate the value of talking through our problems. It sounds non-technical, and therefore old-fashioned, but getting farmers to open up is the very first step to building a holistic approach to mental health in the industry.

“It is so important to encourage a habit within agriculture that explicitly recognises how the job can, and does, impact on the wellbeing of everyone living and working in it and how poor mental health can have a direct and deadly impact on the job. Given the year we have just experienced, making sure we are all looking after our physical and mental wellbeing has never been more relevant.

The Mind Your Head campaign will focus on prevention and early identification of risk factors associated with those living and working in the UK farming industry and also aims to highlight the wealth of support available. During the week long campaign, the Farm Safety Foundation will be sharing the stories of some incredible people who have lost loved ones to suicide, made difficult career and life choices, and hear stories of hope, resilience, and the light at the end of that dark tunnel.

Stephanie added: “This is a huge concern and one that we need to keep talking about. In the last 12 months, calls to farming charities have increased so we need to be concerned about the numbers of people in our industry feeling high levels of distress and to keep pushing to ensure people know that help is available and encourage them to ask for it. This is your industry, your future, and your responsibility to it’s time to speak up, speak out and mind your head.”

For more information on the campaign or to learn more about how the Farm Safety Foundation and partners are tackling the issue of poor mental health in the industry please visit  www.yellowwellies.org or follow them on social media – @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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