Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 22 June 2018

Rural isolation and debt worries leading to poor mental health among farmers

Brid O’Meara Aware, Margaret Hoctor and Peter Hynes chatting with Margareth Donnelly in the Independent Tent at the Ploughing Championships 2017
Brid O’Meara Aware, Margaret Hoctor and Peter Hynes chatting with Margareth Donnelly in the Independent Tent at the Ploughing Championships 2017
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Rural isolation and worries about debts and loans are some of the compounding issues leading to depression for members of the farming community.

Aware - who have a tent at this year's National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co Offaly, for the first time this year - said that huge numbers of people have been in to discuss mental health issues.

Brid O’Meara Aware, Margaret Hoctor and Peter Hynes chatting with Margareth Donnelly in the Independent Tent at the Ploughing Championships 2017
Brid O’Meara Aware, Margaret Hoctor and Peter Hynes chatting with Margareth Donnelly in the Independent Tent at the Ploughing Championships 2017

Rural isolation, families moving away, and worries about debt are some of the issues people have been discussing with Aware over the last three days.

Farm Ireland Editor Margaret Donnelly hosted a talk in the Independent tent to discuss mental health and the impact on the rural communities.

Direct of Services for Aware, Brid O'Meara, Peter Hynes Zurich Farmer of the Year and sheep farmer Margaret Hoctor joined the panel discussions.

"We have had huge numbers of people come into us to discuss mental health issues, how it impacts their feelings and their interest in things," Brid O'Meara, director of services for Aware told the Independent Talks series.

"Farmers, their wives and female farmers can be terribly isolated.

"We're hearing about loans and the worries of debts. We're hearing about spring calving, harvest time. All of these issues are compounding," she said.

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Speaking after the event, Ms O'Meara told Independent.ie that people have been thanking Aware for their presence at the championships this year.

While they have had a smaller presence at the event in the past, this was the first year they have had a tent and attendance at the tent has been far bigger than anticipated.

Zurich farmer of the year, Peter Hynes said his struggle with mental health goes back 16 years, when he was under a lot of pressure at work.

"Everything snowballed on me. I went to the stage where I wasn't able to control myself or my own mind. I was crying for no reason. I went to see a counsellor reluctantly and from there I got great relief."

Mr Hynes added that a lot of farmers feel like the world is on their shoulders and that the job is very isolated.

"Agri has a big problem with the stigma of mental health. Farmers aren't willing to share their experiences. It's very important to find someone to talk to and get a hand on the issues before it goes too far."

Sheep farmer Margaret Hoctor said she joined the farming world after she was made redundant from her job in the corporate world.

"My husband is a sheep farmer and I became involved in that.

"After becoming redundant, I found myself terrified. I went through the five stage of grief before I could do anyting."

She said that she was lucky to have her husband and that he helped her through the rough time.

"We began to look at what we could do to make more money on the farm and we started a lamb business."

Margaret said that for her it's very important to stay active and get away from the farm in order to look after her mental health.

Ms O'Meara said that Aware's goal is to get people to treat mental health like dental health.

"Everyday you wake up and do something for your dental health, but not your mental health. We want to get people doing more for their mental health."

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