Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 February 2018

Suicide risk among farmers an urgent issue warn agencies

IFA's family and rural affairs chair. Maura Canning.
IFA's family and rural affairs chair. Maura Canning.
Paul Kelly of Console

Ken Whelan

The suicide risk among farmers because of economic pressures and stresses needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, a charity has warned.

Paul Kelly, from the Console charity, said they had received over 6,000 calls to its helpline from farmers last year.

His comments come following a minute's silence at the EU Agriculture Committee meeting last week to mark the number of farmers who have taken their own lives amid the difficulties in the agriculture markets.

"Some of the stories we hear are heart breaking and they are coming from people who will take care of their animals better than themselves," said Mr Kelly.

"Farmers by their nature are private individuals.

"They see it as a weakness to seek help."

Mr Kelly, who urged those in need to help to call Console's 24-hour helpline at 1800-742645, said a lack of mental health services in rural areas was a "factor".

The IFA's family and social affairs chair, Maura Canning, said a large percentage of the nearly 400 suicides recorded in Ireland last year occurred in rural areas.

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"There is not a single rural community that has not been affected by suicide though there is a tendency to keep quiet about these tragedies," she said.

"The contributing factors in these deaths are numerous and include financial difficulties, family problems, isolation, depression and the pressure put on farmers from the red tape and farm inspection demands from Government agencies.

"Often just one of these pressures is too much for the farmer and something gives way and a life is lost in the flick of a switch."

She said calls to the IFA/Pieta House helpline at 1890-130022 have increased substantially.

Ms Canning urged farming families to be alert to changes in behaviour and to urge those in need to seek help and talk to family members about the issues.

Mairead McGuinness, MEP, said there is "something very rotten in our society today" if those producing food are so desperate on their farms that they are taking their own lives.

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