IFA ‘talk and walk’ initiative gets underway

Bureaucracy; financial strain; unpredictable weather; and unannounced Department of Agriculture inspections are among the issues that can cause anxiety among farmers, according to Galway-based Maura Canning who chairs IFA’s National Farm Family and Social Affairs Committee.

The IFA’s ‘Let’s Talk and Walk’ forest walks, which are now in their fifth year, is one initiative aimed at alleviating stress among farmers and those in rural communities.

Held in conjunction with See Change; Coillte; and Mental Health Ireland, the walks encourage people to take time out of their usual routines to go for a walk and support the campaign to change minds about mental health – one conversation at a time.

Six family-friendly walks are scheduled to take place in May, which is green ribbon month. The walks will be held in Cork, Galway, Donegal, Monaghan, Wicklow and Laois.

“The idea of the walks came about through linking up with See Change and Mental Health Ireland to spread the message about the need to talk about mental health,” said Canning.

“Through the distribution of the green ribbons, we were getting an open conversation going on mental health,” she said.

“The walks have been very successful over the years, allowing people to get out in forests, in the fresh air, and to chat afterwards over refreshments.

“People who wanted to discuss their own issues, or those of someone they knew, were able to link up with the various organisations. We were able to get the word out there that support is available,” Canning said.

Isolation is a problem in many parts of the countryside, she said.

People may have mobile phones in their pockets, but they might never use them to discuss a problem.

“The walks are open to everyone, and underline the message that help is there.

“We also have pamphlets (‘Let’s Talk; Dealing with Stress’) and the IFA Pieta House Mind Our Farm Families phone line and counselling service,” said Canning.

The walks will take place as follows:

Doneraile Forest Park, Mallow, Co. Cork, on Sunday, May 7 at 3:00pm;

Portumna Forest Park, Co. Galway, on Sunday, May 7 at 3:00pm;

Ards Forest Park, Co. Donegal, on Sunday, May 14 at 3:00pm;

Lough Muckno Leisure Park, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan, on Friday, May 19 at 7.30pm;

Avondale Forest Park, Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow, on Sunday, May 21 at 3:00pm;

Emo Park and Gardens, Co. Laois, on Sunday, May 28 at 3:00pm.