Milk tankers are set to play a key role in supporting a new rural mental health campaign by Samaritans and dairy co-ops.

Around 500 trucks owned by milk processors who are members of Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) will feature Samaritans’ helpline signage.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the Samaritans freephone number – 116 123 – among farmers and other people in rural Ireland, especially those living or working in isolation.

Milk tankers and feed trucks from Arrabawn; Aurivo; Carbery (including Drinagh, Bandon, Lisavard and Barryroe co-ops); Dairygold; Glanbia; Kerry; Lakeland; North Cork; Ornua (Kerrygold); and Tipperary co-op will be included in the campaign.

Samaritans’ volunteers answer over half a million calls for help every year.

Samaritans deputy regional director, Aileen Spitere, explained that the initiative will target those “hard-to-reach groups” who are often most at risk of loneliness and isolation.

Mental health

The campaign was launched on Peter and Paula Hynes’ dairy farm in Aherla, Co. Cork by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for farm safety, Martin Heydon.

“Farmers are exposed to a lot of work pressures and often find themselves working long hours alone. This can lead to isolation and mental health issues which is a real concern for so many people living in rural Ireland.

“This initiative could make a real difference in reaching those who need support most and I want to commend the leadership shown by all those involved,” the minister said.

Peter Hynes, who established AgMentalHealthWeek with his wife Paula, explained that it was important people in rural Ireland know that there is always someone willing to listen.

“Farming is a demanding and tough occupation for some. Ensuring we highlight the importance of reaching out for support in times of crisis is crucial and the greatest way to reduce stigma around mental health and suicide is through a united voice,” Hynes stated.

Conor Ryan, DII chair and chief executive of Arrabawn co-op, said that processors were delighted to help Samaritans spread the message that help is available to anyone who is struggling to cope.

“Our vehicles travel more than 50 million kilometres across the country every year, especially over the summer months, visiting some of the most rural areas in Ireland. If even one person who sees a sign makes a call for help, we know we will have made a difference,” Ryan said.