The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney joined together with Kathleen Lynch Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health and the IFA recently to launch “Let’s Talk: Dealing with Stress”, a helpful resource for farmers on dealing with the particular pressures of farm life and seeking help and support.
The ‘Let’s Talk’ leaflet was produced by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) as part of a series of joint initiatives with See Change, aimed at supporting farmers’ mental health and tackling the stigma associated with mental health problems.
The leaflet focuses on stress as an important issue for good mental health and well-being but also for farm safety. It contains invaluable information for farmers and their families on the causes and signs of stress as well as expert and practical advice and contact information of further sources of information and support.
Speaking at the launch, Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch said, “I welcome this important initiative which is aimed at supporting farmers who, because of the isolation of their working life and heavy workload, can suffer from a high incidence of stress and I would like to congratulate everyone involved in producing this resource.”
The Minister continued, “As Minister of State with responsibility for mental health my vision is to achieve a change in Irish social attitudes and behaviour and to reduce the level of discrimination and prejudice. Initiatives such as this have the potential to change attitudes and help lay the necessary foundations for a real and positive transformation of how mental illness is perceived.”
Minister Simon Coveney added, “I am delighted to be associated with the launch of this excellent resource on farm stress and our attitudes to mental stress. While we appreciate the normal stress that is part of our daily life, there are many issues today which threaten its balance. There is no doubt that we are now dealing with more pressures like issues relating to finance, family or even the harsh weather conditions that plagued us within the last twelve months. Sometimes the worries or concerns become too hard to manage and that is where resources like this one being launched today are essential. “
“Too often we hide these concerns allowing them to fester into what is perceived to be an unmanageable situation. However by opening up to somebody early and sharing one’s experience a resolution, which may have seemed to be impossible for the person concerned, can be found. I would encourage all to promote this resource to encourage anybody in need to avail of it.”
IFA Farm Family and Social Affairs Chairwoman Margaret Healy said, “Financial pressures, increased regulation, unpredictable working conditions and long hours are the main causes of stress on farms. The last few years had been very tough for many farm families, due to falling farm incomes, with many farms now trying to sustain extra people due to the loss of off-farm incomes, as well as heavy debt burdens.”
IFA are currently hosting a series of national meetings to promote greater awareness of mental health problems and services. Speakers from See Change and the National Office of Suicide Prevention have been invited to talk at each of the IFA’s 29 County Executives meetings over the coming months.
“The lack of dedicated services for rural communities that understand farming and rural life is compounding mental health problems,” said Mrs. Healy. “The expansion of the Farm and Rural Stress helpline to a national service would be a very positive and cost-effective way to address the problem.”
John Saunders, Director of See Change said, “Recognising and addressing the pressures and anxieties shared by the farming community is one way to create open discussion of the mental health problems that can affect any of us.”
Research commissioned by See Change on ‘Public Attitudes Towards Mental Health Problems’ identified that the stigma surrounding mental health problems acts as a significant issue for Irish farmers, preventing many from seeking the help that they need. The 2010 study found that a significant 57% of Irish farmers surveyed would not want others to know if they had a mental health problem, 42% of farmers would hide a diagnosis of a mental health problem from friends and 27% would delay seeking help for fear of someone knowing about it.