ROG WOOD is well recognised within the farming sphere, not least for his editorial prowess as an agricultural hack but also as a former hill farmer from Sanquhar. He was the youngest ever tenant on the Duke of Buccleuch’s Queensberry Estate to have taken a farm on the open market at the age of 22. In the beginning, Rog and his wife Carmen faced huge financial uncertainties getting the business off the ground and both invested a lot of energy and time on non-farming incomes. In the same year they took on the farm tenancy their first child Elliot was born, shortly followed by daughters Natalina and Claudia. However, at his young age of 20, they lost Elliot to suicide.

The impact of Elliot’s death has caused great pain to Rog and his family over the last 22 years and the unknown circumstances which led to his decision to take his own life have caused great frustration and resulted in Rog suffering from severe depression. Rog is determined that the stigma surrounding suicide is eliminated in farming communities and spoke openly to The Scottish Farmer about how important it is that people seek help early on when they are struggling with their mental health. He stressed the necessity to open up and speak to friends and family about pressures they might be facing, so they never reach the final crisis stage that his own son did, where suicide is the only way out.

“Money was always a huge pressure facing our family. I took on the Buccleuch tenancy at the age of 22 and we had our son Elliot that same year that we moved in. With the farm in disrepair and starting a young family, It was difficult making ends meet so Carmen and I had to take on other jobs to make money. I was always so busy and in hindsight, I never spent enough time with my family.

“Elliot failed his second year at Glasgow University and ended up dropping out and began an HND in agriculture at Auchincruive the following September. Early on in his new course, in mid-November, he came back to visit our family for the weekend and it was like any other ordinary evening, we all sat chatting in the living room and Elliot left to go and shut the hens in.

“The next morning, Carmen noticed his bed hadn’t been slept in and we were all worried he had maybe had an accident on the farm. I started looking everywhere and then I found him, in the barn. He had shot himself, with my gun and no father should ever find what I found.

“I can’t even begin to explain what it is like to discover your own son like that, and to have had not even a small idea that anything had even been wrong in the first place. Our son’s suicide left our whole family in an emotional mess, our eldest daughter dropped out of university and our youngest, who was 10 years younger than Elliot, was far too young to have to cope with the reality of what had happened.

“I wish to hell he had told me, I actually remember asking him that night – as we sat alone together when the family had gone to bed – how are things going son? And he said “fine dad”. That was his chance to talk, there was nothing he was facing that the two of us couldn’t have solved between us, nothing, if only he had spoken to me.

“Both my wife and I blame ourselves for not having realised something was wrong and not being able to do something for him. The day he died, he was down the road with the land rover and met a couple of family friends out for a walk and both assured me that nothing was wrong. That is the issue, you just don’t know, people need to speak.

“We were so busy building up the business, I worry that I didn’t spend enough time with the family and may have missed things as my attention was elsewhere. I lost all interest in the farm after his death anyway, as what was the point, it was all going to be for him.

“The bit that really hurts is – I’m the father, I should have known – I am confronted with that constant question – If only I had known, if only I had seen, I feel guilty about not being able to have helped.

“From his perspective, if only he could know the damage this has done to our family, to his little sisters, who have never been able to get over the events of that night.

“We made a huge mistake in never going for counselling and I would strongly advocate doing this. Twenty years ago, counselling was in its infancy and I regarded it as just do-good-ers who sat and had a cup of tea, but how wrong I was – there is so much more to it and it is now a huge help for those struggling with mental health and grief.

“Since Elliot’s death I have suffered a lot from depression. I have several close friends who I speak to very openly and that really does help a lot. They don’t offer solutions, they can’t, but they sit and listen and it’s not about saying ‘buck up’ – it’s a mental illness.

“One of the hardest things with depression is that it catches you out unawares – you will be driving somewhere or doing something as part of your normal routine and all of a sudden it hits you and you burst into tears.

“My wife copes in a different way to me. Our boy is buried in clear view of our house and she is keen on attending the grave and laying flowers. I can’t go near it, I can’t face it. My way of coping is to shut it out, to deliberately forget when he died, to never go near the grave.

“There are wee things that have gone missing in the community over the years. At one time the church was a big player – a social hub for many farmers – and sales reps provided that human contact, breaking up the long hours of a busy working week. So many farmers now live for weeks on end without seeing anyone and even more so now, with less labourers working on farms. Loneliness can be crippling and having faced money struggles myself, I would hate to imagine what it must be like for those farmers living alone, with no one to share the load with.

“If I could offer any advice from my own experience, I would urge people who begin to have doubts about depression; go to your GP, speak to people, look seriously at counselling.

“There are major differences between feeling low and clinical depression. When the latter develops the person can be affected most of the time, frequently for several weeks or months. Symptoms can include tiredness, restlessness, low mood, falling energy levels, poor concentration, a lack of interest in things that would normally give pleasure and suicidal thoughts.

“The key to a successful outcome is to recognise when you or someone you know is ill and accessing the right support as soon as possible. Unfortunately, most struggle on and ‘get by’, while sadly a growing number end up taking their own lives.

“There is still, in the farming community, a stigma with suicide and there shouldn’t be. It is a mental illness that can be averted. As a community, we need to open up and talk about mental health. Only then will be recognise and act upon the early signs of suicide, only then can we lead to it being prevented,” stressed Rog.

Guidance and support

If you have personally been affected by any of the content in this series and would like to seek further advice, please see the contact details of specific organisations below:

Breathing Space – Lines are open Mon – Thu between 6pm - 2am and from Fri 6pm – Mon 6am

RSABI - Helpline open seven days between 7am – 11pm on 0300 111 4166 or

Scottish Association of Mental Health – Call the info service on 0141 530 1000 Mon – Fri between 9-5 or

Samaritans – Helpline open 24/7, on 116 123 or 08457 90 90 90 or

Support in Mind Scotland (National Rural Mental Health Forum) Call on 0131 662 4359 Mon – Fri between 9am – 5pm or

If you need urgent medical attention, then please call NHS 24 on 111 or call emergency services on 999.