For many reasons, the sometimes fragile state of mental health in agriculture is making more and more headlines. Rebecca Wilson and Lizzie McLaughlin, creators of the NEW podcast ‘Boots and Heels’, really wanted to explore why is it that the difficulties faced by the agricultural industry are unique and so prevalent, and how anyone affected can find support.
Many of us can admit that recent times have left us feeling lonely and isolated, but this feeling has perhaps been even more significant for the farming community. Already leading an isolated life, with long and often unsociable hours, people in agriculture have really felt the hole left by the temporary restrictions on auctions markets, visiting farms and pubs. These opportunities for contact are vital to combat the loneliness in a highly demanding but highly rewarding industry. Alongside the loneliness, agriculture can be exposed to significant risks such as the weather and trade fluctuations.
Their second episode, ‘S1, E2: In My Mind’, touches on the stigma around mental health and the potential reasons why the farming community find it hard to broach the topic of mental health.
The pair welcomed two guest speakers onto the episode to give a frank insight into their experiences and help them discuss the subject.
‘You don’t have to be a farmer to be a farmer’
Their first guest, Hannah Rees, is a student at Harper Adams University and is currently studying for her final year FdSc Agriculture Degree. As part of her studies, she is carrying out a research project into mental health and wellbeing in agriculture and the effectiveness of services currently in place.
Through her own experience with the provision of mental health support and her familiarity with the DPJ Foundation as a result of being part of LLysyfran Young Farmers Club in Pembrokeshire, she gives the hosts an honest dialogue of where she was able to find support. As a result of some of the findings of her research, they discussed where the systems in place already for mental health support in agriculture could be adapted.
Offering advice on anyone wanting to get involved with the industry, Hannah states, ‘you don’t have to be a farmer to be a farmer’.
If you could take 5 minutes to fill out Hannah’s survey and help her research mental health support provision, please follow this link: https://t.co/1EAS2fwEfG?amp=1
‘Mental health doesn’t discriminate against whether you’re tough or not’
Following Hannah, the latter half of the episode features James Hosking, an ambassador for rural mental health following his own experience of family bereavement and leaving the dairy industry. Having grown up in farming, keeping busy on the farm in many ways provided him with a coping mechanism but James also acknowledges that this meant he didn’t necessarily address the internal struggles that he was having straightway.
You can find James pursuing his hobby of DJ-ing on Instagram (@thedjpasty) and Facebook (DJ Pasty Co. Events Hire) as he believes in the importance of being able to pursue an interest outside of farming.
After both interviews, Becca reiterates the importance of reaching out for support. She states, ‘If we could take anything from this episode, we would urge you to please, please talk to each other and check up on those you know who a part of the agricultural community.’
You can listen to their latest episode on most platforms including Spotify and Apple.
If you would like any further information or are looking for support for yourself or anyone you know, please feel free to follow any of the links below to some organisations who can help.
Farm Safety Foundation – https://www.yellowwellies.org/
Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution – https://rabi.org.uk/
The DPJ Foundation – https://www.thedpjfoundation.co.uk/
National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs – http://www.nfyfc.org.uk/
Farming Community Network – https://fcn.org.uk/
Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/