Midlands-North-West MEP Maria Walsh has called for further supports to address the mental health needs of farmers “in order to combat the high rate of suicide within the farming community”.

“We know that rural isolation and mental health continues to be a significant issue for our farming community,” the Fine Gael MEP said.

“The figures are alarming, around half of our farmers are affected by anxiety and depression, and farmers are three times more likely to die by suicide than any other occupation.

“Brexit, Covid-19, CAP reform and climate change have been additional sources of concern for our farmers. 

“The government has made strong commitments to support farmers in the CAP Strategic Plan and the Climate Action Plan.

“As the farming community rises to meet the new challenges posed by climate change, supports to address mental health needs must not be forgotten.”

Ring-fence funding for mental health initiatives

The MEP said that while the Farming Resilience Programme developed by the IFA, Mental Health Ireland and Teagasc is most welcome, along with the On Feirm Ground programme, there is a “need to ring-fence funding to expand the Make the Moove” initiative established by John Keane, president of Macra na Feirme and Jonathan Dwyer.

“Indeed farming organisations, like the IFA and Teagasc, who receive EU funding could consider ring-fencing a portion of that funding for badly needed mental health supports for their members,” Walsh continued.

“I recently raised the importance of mental health in the sector with Minister McConalogue. We must do more to bring the rural isolation and mental health issues experienced by our farmers to the fore, and to address them.

“Last month, I was delighted that Minister of State Martin Heydon announced the first ever dedicated budget of €2 million for farm safety, with 21 fatal incidents on our farms each year on average, this is a vital measure. Sadly, 26 farmers die by suicide every year on average.

“Now is time for additional supports to be dedicated to address the mental health needs of farmers and combat the high rate of suicide within our farming community.”