Stress and pressures in farming: How do you react?

A joint publication called ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming’ was launched by Teagasc and Mental Health Ireland (MHI) at the National Ploughing Championships 2017.

The booklet is focused on educating people in helping to maintain farmers’ mental health during stressful times and circumstances.

This publication – according to its writers – will be a valuable reference for those dealing with farmers on a day-to-day basis, such as agricultural advisors, vets, Department of Agriculture officials, banks, suppliers, accountants and solicitors.

These service providers must be aware of the mental health impacts of financial burdens and other issues affecting the mental health of rural dwellers.

The book will provide a signpost to a mental health service for clients in difficulty. It will also be a valuable resource for farm families, the writers claim.

Staying well mentally is just as important as staying well physically. The publication has reportedly been researched and collated to address the many and varied issues that contribute to stress when not properly handled.

Irish MEP and first Vice President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, launched the new publication. Commenting at the Teagasc stand at the ‘Ploughing’, she said: “This is an important and timely publication. It provides the tools to allow farming families to identify the symptoms of persistent stress, but more importantly what to do about it.”

“I commend those involved in compiling this comprehensive booklet and urge farming families to use the information and supports outlined in it and learn how to recognise the symptoms of stress and take steps to manage or reduce it.

Supports are available to rural people through professional counselling, financial advice, and farm management expertise.

“I welcome this new Teagasc/MHI publication and I’m sure it will be a helpful resource for rural dwellers in taking that first step in dealing with the pressures in farming.

“I particularly welcome a growing openness to acknowledge that life can, at times, seem difficult and stressful and that farming – with its many uncertainties and sometimes solitary natures of work – can be especially stressful.

“No one should suffer on their own and this tool will see to it that help and support is available,” McGuinness affirmed.

Barry Caslin from Teagasc also commented at the launch, saying: “The dynamic of farming has changed considerably, with the pressure on farmers either to scale up or ship out.

Financial pressures often lead to increased stress and pressure on family relationships.

“Teagasc understands very well the concerns of farmers who are suffering under huge pressure, quite often farmers who have taken on loans to invest in their enterprises which they are now trying to repay.

“Those farmers and many others may find it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I think that there are times when we should take a step back and look beyond such financial pressures and feel comfortable talking about any mental health concerns they may have,” Caslin said.

Meanwhile, Finola Colgan from Mental Health Ireland added to this, noting: “Mental Health Ireland is very pleased to be in partnership with Teagasc in this new publication, that is reaching out to members of our rural communities.

“Providing relevant and comprehensive information on core farming matters and health and well-being is important.

A book of this nature is a valuable resource as the information contained in it is helpful for people at times of crisis and can reduce a sense of loneliness and isolation.

‘Coping with the pressures of farming’ aims to address the numerous ingredients which enhance a farmer’s risk of mental health problems, including: social isolation and exclusion; physically demanding work and long working hours under a range of different light and weather conditions; long working; high levels of stress, depression and anxiety; the volatility of commodity markets; the variability of weather patterns, influence of government regulations, and the inherent dangers of farming itself.

The publication is now available to download on the Teagasc and Mental Health Ireland websites.