‘Fodder fears can fan the flames of rural isolation’ – charity chief

For a farmer who is isolated, lonely or is experiencing financial difficulty, something like the current drought and fodder situation can be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”, according to a leading charity.

Last year, more than 625,000 calls and almost 25,000 texts were received by Samaritans Ireland – which has 20 branches across the country.

Speaking to AgriLand, Cindy O’Shea, regional director of Samaritans Ireland, highlighted that “rural isolation was one of the most pressing issues” raised by callers.

“Cultural markers that we have had in the past such as mass and the post office, have become difficult in terms of access; we now have a generation of people that find themselves very alone,” said O’ Shea.

When you add “something like a fodder crisis on top of that, it has all the ingredients for an awful lot of trouble in rural Ireland,” warned the charity’s regional representative.

It’s not all about the weather

Weather has always and will always play a major role in farming life, however, it is not the sole source of increasing psychological strain among farmers, according to O’Shea.

“Farmers have had a very difficult year that is undoubtedly true, however, we find that the current drought and the fodder crisis only serve to exasperate things that are already under the surface.

For a farmer who is isolated, lonely or is experiencing financial difficulty, something like the current drought is the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’.

“It is a sequence of issues that makes people feel like they can no longer cope,” said the representative, adding “the key is to encourage people to seek help before problems begin to snowball”.

‘A simple message’

The Irish Samaritans have a simple message – but one that can be “extremely powerful”.

“Pick up the phone and talk to us, farmers are certainly a cohort of people that we are happy to listen to,” said the regional director.

While the Samaritans offer a 24-hour helpline to all farmers, O’Shea believes that farming associations must get involved in the fight.

Farm associations must try and stop people from becoming isolated, encourage farmers to talk to each other and to talk to their neighbours. Do not let pride get in the way.

“Don’t let pride be an issue, farmers should share their experience because a lot of people are experiencing the same thing,” said the spokeswoman.

Get in contact

Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout Ireland.

“It doesn’t matter what you are, who you are, where you live, what matters is that you are going through a difficult time and you need support,” said O’Shea.

To contact the Samaritans call: 116 123 or text: 087 2609090. You can also email the charity at: [email protected].