'It's good to have a social outlet other than farming'

Harold Kingston urges farmers to accept help, writes Claire Fox

Fresh air: Harold Kingston opened up to the viewing public about depression and burnout on The Late Late Show a year ago. Photo: Denis Boyle
Fresh air: Harold Kingston opened up to the viewing public about depression and burnout on The Late Late Show a year ago. Photo: Denis Boyle
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

A year on from opening up to the nation about his battle with depression and burnout on The Late Late Show, dairy farmer Harold Kingston urges farmers that even when they are feeling their worst, there is always somebody to talk to.

In 2018, Harold says "spring never came" on his Courtmacsherry farm and that since he had an issue with TB locking up his herd the previous year, the lack of grass growth meant he was worried about feeding his heavily stocked herd.

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While his wife Violet and sister Linda twigged something wasn't right with Harold, who at that point was physically and mentally burned out, it was an encounter with a stranger that made the well-known dairy farmer finally realise that he needed help.

"I had a guy coming to buy some stock off me and when he came, I asked him to take the whole herd as I was just so disheartened and felt like I couldn't cope. The man could've taken advantage of me but he didn't. Instead, he said that I needed to get help."

Harold's first port of call was his GP but he says finding the right person to talk to and trust was key to his recovery.

"At your worst time, you really think there is nobody to talk to. I'm a firm believer in having a support network and having people you can trust," says the IFA west Cork chair. "At the time, people can sometimes say silly things like 'you're not alone', or 'things could always be worse' which really doesn't help.

"It's empathy and not sympathy that people need."

Harold says that delegating tasks to people he trusted and creating a feed budget with advisors from his local co-op did a lot to ease his worries at the time. He also recommends to anyone struggling that if they can afford to take on extra help, they should, even for a short period.

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"I took someone on to milk the cows at the time and got someone to spread all the fertiliser. I still have someone who does our grass measuring, too. You need to be able to trust someone to take over and realise that you're not the only one who can milk cows."

While Harold has come out the other side of his troubles with burnout and depression, he is very conscious of the need to mind his mental health and of maintaining a positive attitude.

"I'm doing slightly longer walks now and did a marathon a couple of weeks ago. It's good to have a social outlet other than farming. People at the time said maybe I should give up IFA or stay off Twitter, but I didn't want to have to do that. If you're stuck at home, things will only get worse and you'll be more isolated."

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