Charles Smith. FCN

Talk about it, ask for help

Farm­ers are no strangers to chal­lenges, but real­is­ing how it affects their men­tal health is not easy. With more than one per­son in UK agri­cul­ture com­mit­ting sui­cide every week, it’s a sub­ject that can­not be avoid­ed.

The mind and body are two of the most pow­er­ful bits of kit a farmer owns, but com­pared to main­tain­ing machin­ery or tend­ing live­stock, self-care is fre­quent­ly over­looked. “If the mind is not well main­tained, the con­se­quences can be dis­as­trous – not just to the farmer, but to the farm busi­ness and the house­hold too,” says Charles Smith, chief exec­u­tive at the Farm­ing Com­mu­ni­ty Net­work.
Thanks to a cam­paign in the rur­al press, men­tal health doesn’t car­ry the stig­ma it once did in the farm­ing com­mu­ni­ty. “As more aware­ness is raised, the ‘stiff upper lip’ men­tal­i­ty that has been entrenched in farm­ing is slow­ly dimin­ish­ing,” he explains. “Peo­ple are begin­ning to open up and talk about how they are real­ly feel­ing. But the fact that the num­ber of those tak­ing their own life is not decreas­ing shows that much more needs to be done.”

If the mind is not well main­tained, the con­se­quences can be dis­as­trous.

Charles Smith, FCN

One of the most impor­tant steps is to recog­nise when you or a loved one is strug­gling. There are sev­er­al signs to look out for, says Mr Smith. “This can include eat­ing more or less than nor­mal, mood swings, poor sleep and for­get­ful­ness. Poor men­tal health can also sig­nif­i­cant­ly con­tribute to phys­i­cal symp­toms such as back pain, pso­ri­a­sis and migraines.” Iden­ti­fy­ing these sig­nals is a key step in get­ting help and tak­ing back con­trol.

So how can you pro­mote a bet­ter work-life bal­ance and a hap­py mind?

  • Take time out
    This is eas­i­er said than done but tak­ing time out for you and your fam­i­ly is impor­tant. Whether it’s remov­ing your­self from a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion for a while or going on hol­i­day, tak­ing time out can have a pos­i­tive effect on men­tal well­be­ing.
  • Chill out
    Get­ting enough sleep will relax the mind and help you cope with stress­ful sit­u­a­tions. Sim­ple relax­ation tech­niques like breath­ing deeply can be an effec­tive way of deal­ing with this.
  • Leave it out
    Watch what you eat and drink. Junk food, alco­hol and caf­feine will only raise your stress lev­els. Focus on improv­ing your diet and drink­ing plen­ty of water. A sound body equals a sound mind.
  • Talk it out
    Deal­ing with stress­ful sit­u­a­tions alone is nev­er a good idea: Ask for help. Hav­ing a sim­ple con­ver­sa­tion about things that make you stressed – whether with a friend, fam­i­ly mem­ber, or char­i­ty – may help you see things dif­fer­ent­ly.