MENTAL HEALTH issues are of growing concern in agriculture – and are having a direct impact on farm safety.

A new study by the Farm Safety Foundation has found that 84% of farmers under the age of 40 believe that mental health is the biggest danger facing the industry today, up from 81% in 2018, while 85% of young farmers believe there is a definite link between mental health and the overall safety of farms.

In 2018 there were 83 suicides amongst people working in agricultural and related trades in England and Wales. To raise awareness of the link between poor mental health and farm safety, the Farm Safety Foundation last week launched their third annual Mind Your Head campaign to bring attention to what can be a difficult issue for individuals to talk about.

The farming industry puts people under a unique set of pressures; extended amounts of time working in isolation, a blurring between work and home life, and financial uncertainty. Brexit, changing consumer habits, and the climate crisis present further threats to the industry. The total income in the UK from farming decreased by a massive £971 million between 2017 and 2018, and 42% of UK farmers would have made a loss between 2014 and 2017 without direct payments from the EU.

The Mind Your Head campaign is focused on the physical and mental wellbeing of an industry under pressure, and educating those living and working in the UK’s agricultural communities about the various mental health threats facing them. This year’s campaign brings public attention to issues such as ‘smiling depression’, PTSD, loneliness, rural isolation and mental health in young farmers.

FSF manager Stephanie Berkeley said: “It is encouraging to see more discussions about mental health, more awareness of the various mental health conditions and more emphasis on the support available to the farming community. However, more still needs to be done.

“Whilst farmers are often culturally ill-equipped to discuss mental health issues, one of the most effective methods in combating stigma is talking about it,” she insisted.

“It is vital to build a culture within agriculture that explicitly recognises how the job can impact on the wellbeing of farmers and their families and conversely how poor mental health can have a direct and deadly impact on the job,” she continued. “Let’s be clear, this isn’t someone else's responsibility, this is on our watch and, in these challenging times, it’s down to each and every one of us to look out for our friends, colleagues, neighbours and ourselves.”

Those seeking more information on how to tackle poor mental health in the industry can visit the Farm Safety Foundation’s website and social media channels, where they can access stories, advice and services and a film highlighting these issues on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.