New role for vets in helping farmers at risk of suicide



A RURAL north Kerry development company is so worried about the mental health of farmers it has started training people to look out for alarming changes in their behaviour to get them help before it is too late.

North and East Kerry Development has started training professionals working in the agriculture sector to look for signs of depression and/or other alarming changes in behaviour among farmers in a bid to save lives this winter.

The Mental Health Awareness Training scheme was launched by the Farm Family Support Service of the NEKD this week. They believe it could have massive impact in getting help for people before it is too late.

"As the winter approaches the impact of both the weather and the current financial hardship among farmers will become more and more apparent," Hilary Egan, of the Farm Family service said.

"There is no doubt that there is huge stress and strain on farmers and their families. It is at times like this that their resilience and mental wellbeing is severely tested," Ms Egan added.

Their approach is based on the belief that many farmers would rather confide in professionals than family members.

"Our aim is to promote mental health awareness training particularly among service providers who would have a history and personal relationship built up with the farmer over the years. Very often it is someone in this kind of position that someone will turn to rather than a close family member," Ms Egan said.

These are the people who will likely notice changes in behaviour among farmers before others. "Signs of stress can manifest as a change in character or even appearance and these may be warning signals for someone in distress and in need of help."

The Farm Family Support Service will be training professionals at 8pm on Wednesday, December 5, at the Tralee Community Development Project building opposite Waterworld on Rock Street. Training for those in the Castleisland area takes place in the Castleisland Mart building on Tuesday, December 11, at 8pm.

Vets, AI technicians, mart managers and representatives of the IFA and ICMSA were among the professionals who took part in the first training session in Listowel this week.

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