Macra na Feirme has said it is outraged and disappointed that the acting Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, has decided to cut mental health funding.

Earlier this week it was reported that the Department of Health and the HSE is planning to divert €12m from the €35m mental health fund to other areas of the health service.

The decision has been described as “retrograde” by Macra na Feirme’s National President Sean Finan.

“There are so many people out there suffering with mental health difficulties that this is unacceptable and needs to be reversed,” Finan said.

“At the moment, commodity prices are under pressure and this brings added stress and strain, particularly on young farmers, and can contribute to mental health issues. So it’s a worry to us that any funding for mental health should be reallocated.”

The rate of youth suicide in Ireland is the fifth highest in the EU, according to a report from DCU’s PISA Research Project.

“Mental health is a huge issue right across the whole country and not just in the farming community,” Finan said.

“Suicide has been an issue right through the years, whether we’ve had good or bad commodity prices.

“It’s an issue that needs to be tackled, addressed and talked about. People need to be made aware of all the support services that are available to them out there.”

Finan added that he really encourages people to get out and get active in their local Macra na Feirme club.

“We hope to encourage positive mental health by meeting people and speaking and interacting with others.”

Farmers in High Risk Category

Macra na Feirme’s National President said that as farmers so often work on their own, they might not see people from one end of the day to the next.

“That puts them in a higher risk category than other professions who may have a nine-to-five job with a lot of contact with other people.

As farmers, we work in most cases on our own and mightn’t have enough contact with people.

Two years ago it was revealed that 33% of farmers would delay seeking professional help for fear of others finding out, according to a mental health survey.

In addition, 72% said they would not want other people to know if they did have a mental health problem.

“I know in my own role as National President of Macra na Feirme I get calls from people who are feeling under pressure,” Finan said.

Sometimes they ring me as a leader of the organisation but also as someone that they can talk to. Once they do that, the issue might not have been as great as they originally thought.”

Commenting on the planned mental health funding cuts, Macra na Feirme’s Rural Youth committee chair Cara O’Mahony said, “We are very fortunate in this country to have so many charities, including Macra, doing fantastic work for mental health.

“This move shows blatant disregard for consolidated effort from voluntary groups across the country to support some of our most vulnerable citizens.”