Keeping on Track: Farmer’s wellbeing podcast launches
2nd October 2023
Upon losing a close farming friend to suicide, Adam Henson embarked on a project with Team Doctor to create the Keeping on Track podcast, which aims to erase the stigma around mental health in farming and raise awareness of the challenges those in the rural profession face.
The podcast, which launches on all streaming platforms today (2nd October), was partly inspired by RABI’s Big Farming Survey, which has become known as the biggest-ever research project into the mental health and wellbeing of the farming community.
The survey of 15,000 farmers across England and Wales found that one in three farming people are possibly or probably depressed, and that there is a strong link between the financial health of a farm business and the mental and physical health of the people running it.
Moreover, a shocking 92% of farmers under the age of 40 ranked poor mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing UK farmers today in a recent study by the Farm Safety Foundation, representing an increase from 82% in 2018.
Having grown up as a farmer’s son in the Cotswold Hills, Adam’s deep appreciation for the countryside is rooted in the family history. Since taking over the farm tenancy in 1999, he has been running the 650-hectare estate with friend Duncan Andrews, alongside Cotswold Farm Park, home to over 50 breeding flocks and herds of British rare breed farm animals.
Through his work as a farmer, author and BBC Countryfile presenter, Adam has a close connection with the farming community and understands all too well the challenges of the day to day running of a farming business.
“As anyone working in farming knows, every day brings potential joy and disaster – you never quite know what is going to happen and there are many things you can’t control. This is one of the reasons for the high suicide rate within the farming sector,” he pointed out.
After losing a close friend who died by suicide and learning about the troubling statistics around mental health in farming, Adam was compelled to work with a professional production team to create a series of podcasts to help alleviate some of the problems faced and provide resources to the community.
“The podcast will hopefully make people realise that they are not alone and that sharing their worries and concerns will help lift the burden,” he told Farmers Guide. “It will also signpost those who are struggling to where they can get support.
“There is no denying that life is difficult for some farmers at the moment, but we want to provide a reminder that they needn’t suffer in silence.”
A timely discussion
Keeping on Track was produced with the professional input of Team Doctor, specialists in providing health education for patients using films, animations, interactive e-learning courses and podcasts.
Having previously delivered training to the Cotswold Farm Park staff, the team reached out to Adam with the idea of a podcast, involving award-winning presenter Dominic Arkwright and producer Rosie Runciman, which he accepted eagerly.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be involved. It’s a subject matter that’s more vital than ever and very close to my heart,” he said.
The first series of Keeping on Track features 10 twenty-minute episodes, with guests exploring several different themes including: loneliness and isolation, financial worries, sleep and mindfulness.
The series features spokespeople from farming charities such as YANA and RABI, as well as experts in farmer wellbeing and mental health specialists, alongside farming influencers and campaigners such as Ally Hunter Blair and Mike Wilkins.
Among the topics discussed are the warning signs that a farmer is in poor mental health and in need of intervention, which Adam said is not always obvious even when looking at our own wellbeing. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to keep a lookout for farmers in the community and learn to recognise the signs.
“A big thing to look out for is if there is a significant change in behaviour. Maybe your usually bubbly friend has retreated into themselves or is suddenly missing from social events, not replying to messages or phone calls or, when you speak to them, they are talking negatively about the future or their self-worth,” he explained.
“Physical signs can include losing weight, not looking after personal hygiene, smoking more and maybe drinking more. Perhaps you’ve noticed that their home or livestock standards are slipping – this can be another signal. The most important thing is to not judge and be an open ear.
“Don’t forget to keep a check on yourself as well – if you’ve noticed an increase in your level of irritability or overwhelm, or friends are telling you that you don’t seem like yourself, it may be a good idea to speak to someone.”
A variety of resources and ideas of where to turn for help are explored in the podcast series and can also be found at www.teamdoctor.org/charities.
The Keeping on Track podcast can be found on a variety of platforms, including Spotify, Google Podcasts and Soundcloud. For more information and to watch the trailer, visit https://teamdoctor.org/farmers.