How to spot and treat mental illness
In the UK, one in five members of the public will experience depression at some point during their lives, and more than 20% of farmers will suffer from the illness.
Long working hours are often spent alone, with entire days spent without human contact. Social isolation allows depression and negative thoughts to fester, and not seeing people regularly simply lowers the chance of someone spotting symptoms of mental illness. Psychiatrists say not seeking support when stress first emerges can lead to the situation becoming much more serious, and can have fatal consequences.
There are several signals which, if seen over a prolonged period, may indicate poor mental health and all within the farming community should look out for. These include eating more or less than normal, mood swings, lack of concentration, feeling tense or useless, poor sleep patterns, fatigue and forgetfulness. Poor mental health can also lead to physical symptoms such as back pain, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis and migraines.
The Farming Community Network (FCN) offers free, practical and pastoral support to farmers and families within the farming community. Many of the 400 plus FCN volunteers are involved in farming and have a unique understanding of the issues facing the agricultural industry.
Around 6,000 people a year benefit from the support of the FCN. Around two-thirds FCN cases are financial issues. Every year, FCN takes on 1,000 new cases through its helpline and third party referrals. FCN provides a confidential helpline from 7am until 11pm every day of the year – 03000 111 999.
Time to Change Wales (TtCW) is the first national campaign focussing on reducing the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems in Wales. People who experience mental illness often face stigma and discrimination within communities, social settings and families, and for many of them, this is often more difficult than living with and managing the symptoms themselves. The Time to Change Wales campaign aims to improve knowledge and understanding about mental illness and, more importantly, to get people talking about their mental health.
The Farm Safety Foundation has launched its ‘Mind Your Head’ campaign to try and get farmers talking about their mental health. It says farming is an industry with the poorest safety record in the UK and stress is often down to accidents, injuries and illnesses. The charity also says that stress from financial pressures on the fluctuating market, livestock disease and poor harvest – also pays a big part in how farmers’ mental health is affected.
The campaign aims to encourage farmers and farming families not to neglect themselves, but to put themselves first, and get some help and advice on whatever concerns they have.