As I write, I’m sitting at the kitchen table, cuppa in hand, dog sat at my feet. I’ve just checked the stock, which are all well, and I’ve walked the spring barley, which, thankfully, is looking a lot more promising after a good dosing of rain last week.
Today, in my own company, comforted by the peaceful stillness of home, this is pure bliss.
But, as I’m sure all of you have experienced in one way or another, there are times when the peaceful stillness is a daunting silence, and one’s own company becomes wretched isolation. Times where the stock aren’t all well, and the weather isn’t playing ball. Times where stress and anxiety take hold.
This is okay – it’s okay not to be okay.
Working in the farming industry can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but the pressures can be incredibly challenging too.
Out of all UK farmers under the age of 40, 92% rank having poor mental health, and I wonder how many of those are being proactive in trying to change that.
Student & Young Farmer Ambassador Darcy Johnson
Rural isolation, stigma, and a lack of awareness are some of the main reasons rural communities suffer with poor mental health and fail to seek help. In fact, out of all UK farmers under the age of 40, 92% rank as having poor mental health, and I wonder how many of those are being proactive in trying to change that.
I simply cannot put into words how much it saddens me that as a young person starting out in the agriculture industry, I’ve already met wonderful, energized young people that have now taken their own life. People who you would have never thought to worry about but who were battling so deeply and silently within themselves.
While we are beginning to see a culture change in our sector and talking about mental health is becoming more accepted, there are still too many of our community ignoring signs and struggling in silence. A change of mindset is needed - never be afraid to ask for help. No problem is insurmountable.
It was an absolute privilege to be invited to Parliament earlier this year for the NFU’s Summer Reception which was themed around ‘talking mental health’.
I was enthused to be in a room of so many MPs, peers, and charities, discussing this important topic and raising awareness of the stress and anxiety running a farming business can come with, especially during this time of political and economic uncertainty. It was refreshing to see the NFU address rural mental health head-on and urge government to take vital action to support them in this stride.
Mental health can’t be something we are afraid to talk about. It is real, and it is affecting more people around you than you think. I can only hope the amazing work of Andy and Lynda Eadon and Olly Harrison this year has opened more people’s eyes and made it clear that it’s okay to not be on top form all of the time, and more importantly, it’s okay to talk about it.
So I urge you to take a minute, ring that friend you haven’t spoken to for a while, check up on that mate, and take a minute to talk.
Darcy’s tips for tackling mental health
- Speak up – both if you’re feeling low and to let your mates know you’re always free to listen, give your mate a hug, and let them know you’re always free to listen
- Check on your farming neighbours and friends
- Take advantage of community events
- Keep active
- If you struggle to talk, write down your feelings and concerns
- Get enough sleep
- Take up a hobby
- Make the most of local support