‘Grown men shed tears’: Carnew mart’s Awareness Head to Toe

“Grown men shed tears, because what I had to say affected them so much,” said George Graham, who chairs Awareness Head to Toe, which recently held a farm safety and well-being event at Carnew mart.

The vice-chairman of the Golden Shears World Council shared the story of his struggle with mental illness at the 350-strong gathering, which he said was highly successful.

In a past interview with AgriLand, George said: “To be very blunt about it, I had a gun loaded and put to the side of my head. I went to bed and wanted to end my own life. I can guarantee you, I was in the worst place.”

At the Carnew mart event, he urged others who have slipped through that same dark tunnel to take the first step, which he said is the hardest. And to confide in someone they can trust – to find the path to recovery.

The Gorey farmer and professional sheep shearer said that many of those in attendance got back in touch with him after the talk.

There was a sense of relief that they were not alone in their situations, he said.

‘Mental health is now more out in the open’

While there is now a general acceptance about the need to seek help early on when experiencing mental health difficulties, a lot of people have problems but don’t realise what they can lead up to, and fail to do anything about them, he said.

“Mental health is now more out in the open, but there are a huge amount of pressures out there in the farming world that will impact between now and next May. The bad winter, the snow and the drought are all going to have big effects,” he said.

Some farmers are very heavily stocked and have a lack of fodder for the winter. Prices of food stuffs have gone up. Many farmers are getting up very early to do their farm work, then going to jobs and returning to farm late at night to work in a variety of different environments, which can cause accidents.

The loss of a herd that had been there for a generation, or a bad harvest are among the challenges that farmers can be faced with, George said.

Financial pressures weigh heavily on some, commented George, who advised early contact with the financial institutions rather than ignoring mounting difficulties.

People can see light at the end of the tunnel when I tell them my story. I tried to walk, run and fly away from my situation; but it followed me everywhere.

“Sometimes farmers respond to their problems by trying to do more work and covering up the situation. It can be backwards you are going.”

George’s message is that people are not slow to seek help and respond in the case of physical health difficulties, such as a broken leg. The same should apply with mental illness.

Trust in Another

“I still believe that the hardest person to talk to can be a family member, because you may feel you are putting a lot of pressure on them. If that is the case, confide in someone you can put your trust in. Try and keep on top of things, such as tax returns, which are another pressure.

“If you are going to a bank to discuss financial difficulties, consider bringing someone you trust along. They don’t have to go into the meeting, but can just accompany you for support.

“There are people and organisations out there willing to help. The hardest thing can often be to go out and look for it. The Samaritans are among the organisations offering support, and they work around the clock, which is important as many people are particularly affected at night.”

“Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time, from politicians to sports people and doctors. What is important is that you take that first step and talk to a GP, a counsellor or a friend.”

Other speakers at the Carnew event included: David Quinn of Carnew mart; Bob Sherriff, Teagasc; Jim Dockery, FRS Training; and Peter Gohery, Embrace Farm.

The evening, which was a department-approved knowledge transfer dairy, beef and sheep event, incorporated demonstrations on areas such as machinery use and livestock handling, as well as health checks and First Responders training.

Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day; free phone on: 116 123: or by emailing: [email protected]; or by text on: 087- 2609090.