By Stephanie Berkeley, Manager, Farm Safety Foundation
2020 and 2021 have proved incredibly challenging for the UK’s farming industry. There were extreme weather conditions, poor harvests, supply chain shortages and a global pandemic to contend with but, through it all, farming endured as it always does. The UK’s farmers are a remarkable breed; adaptable, resilient and incredibly hardworking but the commitment of our farmers comes at a price.
In an industry that continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK, making sure those living and working in agriculture look after their physical and mental wellbeing has never been more relevant. From 14th – 18th February 2022, the Farm Safety Foundation (or Yellow Wellies as many know us) will deliver our fifth annual Mind Your Head campaign, and this year we’re also partnering with the Working Minds campaign to focus on prevention and early identification of the risk factors associated with those living and working in farming in the UK.
Our recent tracker research revealed that mental health issues among farmers and agricultural workers are of growing concern with an incredible 92% of farmers under the age of 40 suggesting poor mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today (an increase from 82% in 2018).
Additionally, the recent R.A.B.I Big Farming Survey revealed that 36% of the farming community in the UK are ‘probably’ or ‘possibly’ depressed and sadly the stigma around mental health often prevents those who need help from seeking it.
In an industry where 34 farm workers lost their lives in fatal farm incidents in 2020/2021, there were a total of 44 suicides registered in England and Wales in those working in the farming and agricultural industry in the same time period, according to the Office of National Statistics. While statistics like this are important in understanding the tragedy of suicide, they are not dry data. They are real lives lost; real families devastated.
It’s time to deal with the issue of poor mental health head on.
As an industry, we need to stay vigilant of the numbers of people in farming feeling high levels of stress, distress and anxiety – we need to ensure people know that help is available and encourage them to ask for it. So, over the course of the next week, key farming organisations from across the UK will join forces to support Mind Your Head, to try to tackle the stigma around poor mental health in the industry and highlight the wealth of support available to those living and working in farming.
The message this year is that we sometimes say “I’m okay” when we’re really not. It’s time to ease the pressure, stop expecting people to be perfect and start talking openly about feelings with people you trust. If you really want to help someone, #ASKTWICE and let’s deal with farming’s mental health issues head on.
We sometimes say “I’m okay” when we’re really not…ask twice.
For more information on the campaign or to learn more about how the Farm Safety Foundation is tackling the issue of farm safety and poor mental health in the agricultural industry, please visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow them on social media – @yellowwelliesUK on Instagram, Facebook Twitter and YouTube.