Farmers have been urged to mind their mental health as the agricultural sector’s busiest time coincides with Level 5 lockdown and Brexit pressures.

Dairy farmer and Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard commented on the stresses farmers are facing, noting that research has shown there is a 50% chance of a farmer struggling with mental health problems throughout their career.

On this topic, the Cork senator said: “Farming can be a very isolating job at the best of times.

“But long days spent alone on the land can usually be counter balanced by socialising with friends, meeting up with extended family and other leisure outlets like team sports.

“This is one of the busiest times of year for agriculture and it coincides with a very lonely time for many due to Covid-19 restrictions. There are also additional pressures and uncertainties stemming from Brexit.

Many farmers aren’t seeing anyone from one day to the next, and it’s fair to say everyone is suffering from lockdown fatigue at the moment.

The senator highlighted that another big factor affecting farmers is the terrible weather and dark nights and mornings in recent times, which can really make working outdoors all the more difficult.

He said: “I’m appealing to all farmers to keep an eye on their mental health. There is nothing wrong in seeking help; it is in fact a sign of strength and courage to be able to reach out during a time of need.

“A usually stressful time of solitary work has been exacerbated by the stress we are all feeling about the global pandemic, and the usual social outlets of a pint with friends, a chat with family or a game of football aren’t an option.

“Research has shown that there is a 50% chance of a farmer struggling with mental health problems throughout their career. Let’s do everything we can to lessen those odds in favour of Irish farmers.”

Senator Lombard, the Seanad spokesperson on agriculture, continued, stressing: “Your GP is a good port of call if you’re not feeling like yourself.

“But if you don’t want to contact them, pick up the phone to a friend, a family member or another farmer. A simple phone call can have a very positive impact on us and others, and a problem shared is a problem halved.

“This latest lockdown has been mentally bruising and is taking its toll on all of us.

Sleepless nights of calving and lambing, long days alone on the land in appalling weather conditions and financial worries about Brexit are only adding to the burden.

“It’s OK not to be OK. Don’t suffer in silence and seek help if at all necessary,” senator Lombard concluded.