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Saturday 20 October 2018

'I'm getting calls from farmers at midnight at their wit's end' - Farmers urged to seek help as stress levels rise

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Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Farm leaders are urging farmers to remember they are not alone as the drought takes its toll on their mental health.

ICSA Rural Development chair Seamus Sherlock told the Farming Independent that he is getting calls from farmers at "midnight at their wit's end" due to the current pressures that the drought has brought about.

"I'm getting calls at 12 o'clock at night, and for a fella to be ringing at that time they have to be in a certain place, and have to be at their wit's end," he said.

Mr Sherlock added that the main concerns of farmers are that they are fearful that they will be unable to pay their bills and that they will have a shortage of feed and silage this winter.

"A lot of the calls I get are from ageing farmers who have always paid their way, even if they weren't earning a lot and the idea that they wouldn't be able to pay their bills doesn't sit well with them and is causing them a lot of stress," he said.

"I'm worried that if older farmers are talking about getting out of farming… that if they lose the will to farm, that they will also lose the will to live. It's a very serious situation."

In July alone there have been six farm accident deaths, which Mr Sherlock feels is a sign that farmers are under a lot of mental stress.

Mr Sherlock urged farmers to remember that they are not alone adding that they need to reach out if they are struggling.

IFA's Family Farm chair Caroline Farrell also reminded farmers that they should visit their local GP for advice and talk to family and friends if they are struggling.

Samaritans regional director Cindy O'Shea explained that farmers are being hit hard by the weather situation; she feels that this struggle could continue into the winter when farmers have to pay credit back to their local co-ops.

"Farmers are really struggling at the moment, and into the autumn they could be even more vulnerable when the financial reality of the situation hits home," she said.

"The drought on top of the fodder crisis means farmers might not have had a chance to get their resilience back and are finding it hard to cope."

Ms O'Shea said that a stigma still exists among older male farmers when it comes to talking about their feelings and she urged them to make an effort to talk and go to meeting places like marts as much as possible.

"A problem shared is a problem halved; you don't have to suffer on your own. Go to the mart or to places where other farmers are. Call Samaritans, just don't shut yourself away," she added.

Zurich Farm Insurance Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Peter Hynes is working as an ambassador for the Zurich Tackle Your Feelings campaign and app. He encouraged farmers to download the app or visit a counsellor if they need help.

"I recently met a farmer who stopped me on the road for a chat asking how I coped with mental pressures as he was struggling with his own mental well-being," he said.

"One of the simplest things we can do in life is talk and yet it is so important. I know sometimes it can seem daunting but the relief when you open up and share a problem is immense."

Call Samaritans on 116 123 if you need help.

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