Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

Debt leads to rise in suicides

Fear of regulations also causing stress

ICMSA president Jackie Cahill, Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary and IFA president John Bryan
ICMSA president Jackie Cahill, Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary and IFA president John Bryan
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

DEBT incurred by farm improvements and loss of off-farm income has been highlighted as a contributory factor in the dramatic rise in suicide among Irish farmers.

New research carried out as part of a Teagasc initiative to tackle rural suicides indicates that financial pressures, social shifts and the speed of change in agriculture are the most common themes identified by farmers who have attempted suicide.

Thirty-three farmers took their own lives in 2009, a rise of 24pc from the previous year.

Farmers accounted for 8pc of the 422 male suicide deaths in Ireland last year, and as an occupational group, three times as many farmers died by suicide compared with other professionals.

A study by PhD student Maria Feeney on suicide and the Irish farming community also highlights that increased regulations have added to the tensions and worries of farmers.

Ms Feeney's research was based on interviews conducted with 26 men, aged 19 to 74, who had attempted suicide.

"Financial worries are linked to identity issues with men and a lot of the respondents felt that the loss of their role as breadwinner compromised their self-worth and led them to believe they were failures," Ms Feeney explained.

She said social change had also been linked to suicide, as many farmers experienced isolation when farms moved from being a family business to a one-man operation.

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"While agricultural change can be beneficial for many, adaptation is difficult for some and the speed of change can create challenges," explained Ms Feeney.

"Many mentioned farm regulations, and said that a fear of regulations added to tension and worries."

Other respondents highlighted a change in employment as a contributory factor, where they perceived farming to be a "more meaningful type of work" compared to factory work, which was associated with idleness and boredom.

One respondent said that he did not drink as much and did not feel angry when he was farming.

Irish Independent

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