Saturday 25 November 2017

Suicides rise by almost 25pc among farmers

Aideen Sheehan

Aideen Sheehan

SUICIDES among farmers increased by 24pc last year, startling new figures reveal.

The rate of suicide was twice as high among rural men compared with urban dwellers, the National Farm Health and Safety Conference in Athy, Co Kildare, was told.

The suicide rate is 12 per 100,000 men in Dublin city compared with 25.5 per 100,000 men in Co Roscommon, said UCD researcher Maria Feeney, who was carrying out a study on 'Suicide and Agricultural Change'.

This was not an exclusively Irish phenomenon, as figures from Australia and Scotland also showed a much higher rate of suicide in rural areas.

Ms Feeney revealed that 33 male farmers died by suicide in Ireland last year, accounting for 8pc of the 422 male suicides, and a rise of 24pc over the previous year.

Farmers were over-represented in the suicide figures and were three times as likely to take their lives as professionals such as accountants, engineers and solicitors, she said.

Detailed interviews with rural men who had survived suicide attempts revealed key challenges and difficulties in their lives, including financial problems such as debt, doubts about the viability of their farms and the loss of the traditional male role as "breadwinner" for the family.

There was difficulties with social isolation as rural areas became more depopulated and there were more one-man farms with less interaction with other farmers.

However, there could also be difficulties for farmers forced to take up different types of work, with one suicide survivor highlighting the boredom and lack of fulfilment he found in a factory job compared with farming leading to increased drinking and anger.


And some farmers also noted the speed of change in farming and the tensions and worries associated with regulations.

Ms Feeney said the study was being used by organisations such as the Samaritans, Mental Health Ireland and farming groups to help them reach out to and understand those most at risk of suicide.

Dr Noel Richardson, the director of men's health at Carlow Institute of Technology, said health bodies should target those farmers most at risk by reaching out to those who were isolated, single, bereaved or who had suffered disasters such as crop losses or herd disease.

Irish Independent

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