Farm Ireland

Sunday 23 October 2016

'Isolation is a huge issue... some people are prisoners in their own homes'

Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30

Gerard Barrett
Gerard Barrett

THE storyline of the film 'Pilgrim Hill' is bleak but the film written and directed by Kerry film-maker Gerard Barrett (pictured) was less about entertainment than starting a discussion.

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A portrait of rural isolation, the film tells the story of middle-aged farmer Jimmy Walshe and the pressures he faces each day running the farm and caring for his invalid father.

Screening the film at Corrin Mart in Fermoy, Co Cork last month enabled the organisers, Mitchelstown Macra na Feirme, reach out to a large catchment area. One of the organisers of the screening was Ellen Downey, a Mitchelstown Macra member and ambassador for See Change, an organisation that sets out to stamp out the stigma attached to mental health problems.

"We needed to do something because there are so many people around our area who are suffering," Ellen said."I had seen the film myself at the Cork Film Festival and it struck me straight away. It's so depressing but also very real. I thought if we showed it, it might make people think of themselves or someone they knew and reach out to them." About 250 showed up, a mixture of ages including older people up to their 70s and 80s, to watch the film.

The organisers even received letters and phone calls from people saying how much it had helped them. Among the speakers on the night was Maura Canning, national chairperson of IFA's Farm Family and Social Affairs. The suckler and sheep farmer from Loughrea, Co Galway is one of the organisers of the annual Green Ribbon campaign and its 'Walk and Talk' events.

"Rural isolation is a huge issue. The guy who was used to going down to his local pub for a few pints is afraid to do that anymore and there are people who are prisoners in their own homes," she says.

She also cites weather, financial pressures, the huge bureaucracy involved in farming, working alone as just some of the reasons why people slip into depression and need help to get out of it.

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