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.