NEW STATISTICS on suicide reveal that 133 agricultural workers took their lives in 2019.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics reported 102 registered suicides in England and Wales, and 31 in Scotland. These included farmers, managers, proprietors of agriculture related services and those working in agricultural related trades and elementary agri-occupations.

A recent study by the Farm Safety Foundation found that mental health issues among farmers and agricultural workers are of growing concern and are having a direct impact on safety on farms. It found that 88% of farmers under the age of 40 now rank poor mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today, which has increased from 82% in 2018.

These findings coincided with the Foundation’s ‘Mind You Head’ campaign which runs between February 15 and 19 and focused on prevention and early identification of risk factors associated with those living and working in the UK farming industry.

The farming industry faces many stress factors, which are placing increased pressure on workers and putting them at greater risk of mental ill health. During the last year, the coronavirus pandemic will have only increased the mental health effects on farmers and could continue long after the virus has gone.

FSF manager Stephanie Berkeley commented: “Humans are social animals. We not only enjoy each other’s company, but we also thrive on it. Digital solutions have tremendous value, however we must not underestimate the value of talking through our problems. It sounds non-technical, and therefore old-fashioned, but getting farmers to open up is the very first step to building a holistic approach to mental health in the industry.”

The fourth annual Mind Your Head campaign illustrated actions being taken to break down mental health barriers in farming after it was found that 89% of young farmers believe that talking about mental health in farming will remove any stigma attached to it.

“It is so important to encourage a habit within agriculture that explicitly recognises how the job can, and does, impact on the wellbeing of everyone living and working in it and how poor mental health can have a direct and deadly impact on the job,” continued Ms Berkeley. “Given the year we have just experienced, making sure we are all looking after our physical and mental wellbeing has never been more relevant.

Throughout the past week, The Foundation has highlighted the support available and has shared stories of people who have lost loved ones to suicide, made difficult career and life choices, and heard stories of hope, resilience, and the light at the end of that dark tunnel.

Ms Berkeley added: “In the last 12 months, calls to farming charities have increased so we need to be concerned about the numbers of people in our industry feeling high levels of distress and to keep pushing to ensure people know that help is available and encourage them to ask for it. This is your industry, your future, and your responsibility to it’s time to speak up, speak out and mind your head.”