With clocks set to go back at by one hour, from 2:00a.m to 1:00a.m local standard time, tomorrow (Sunday, October 30), this can cause disruption to farmers’ schedules when it comes to milking and tending to livestock that are not cognisant of any time changes.

“Farming has to continue as normal as the clocks go back. However, there may be a tendency to get jobs done quicker,” said Niamh Nolan, project manager, Farmers4Safety – Managing Risk Together EIP-AGRI Project.

“This can be a risk factor in farm safety as well as impact on physical and mental health.”

The project group has been working with Mental Health Ireland since the beginning of the year on the theme of mind, body safety matters with the important tag line: ‘Make safety, mental health and wellbeing your number one priority.’

“It is well established that loneliness and feelings of isolation rise to the top during the late autumn and winter season within the farming community,” said Niamh.

“It is with this in mind that both organisations have, through consultation, developed a series of new easily accessible resources to remind farmers and their families to look after their mental and physical health and most importantly, to reach out to available resources if struggling.”

Clock the supports

The new farm safety, health and wellbeing leaflet highlights the diverse available supports to the farming community – and extended communities across all sectors.

Farmers4Safety – Managing Risk Together EIP-AGRI project adopts a ‘peer-to-peer’ mentoring approach that investigates farmers, and farm families behaviours and attitudes towards farm safety, health and wellbeing.

It aims to change the norm around farm safety and emotional wellbeing so that farm safety and mental health become normal and sustained parts of farming culture in Ireland while making the sector safer for all who live and work on and visit farms. 

“By utilising a peer-to-peer mentoring approach, it will effectively engage farmers on the ground and be the catalyst to change the social norms surrounding farm safety, health and wellbeing,” said Niamh.

Irish Rural Link (IRL) in partnership with the BRIDE (Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment) project, the Duncannon Blue Flag Farming & Communities Scheme, the New Futures Farming Group, and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is carrying out this piloted project in its catchment areas.

Mental Health Ireland’s aim is to promote and enhance mental health, wellbeing and recovery for all individuals and communities. The organisation aims to support people with lived experience of mental health challenges and their supporters and family members in their recovery.

“We are honoured that Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for Research & Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development Research, Martin Heydon, is providing ongoing support,” said Niamh.

“We are delighted that he is launching our media campaign to highlight self-care during the upcoming seasons and the need to reach out for help and appropriate support if you or someone close to you is struggling.

“‘Níl tuile dá mhéad nach dtránn’ – there’s no flood, no matter how big, that won’t subside,” she said.

Farm safety, health and wellbeing

“The overall aim of this farm safety, health and wellbeing leaflet is to highlight the various supports and services available to the farming community and other working sectors,” she said.

“This leaflet also includes a section to insert your postal code in case of a crisis occurring and assistance being required.

“The overall message we hope that this leaflet will achieve is to highlight the value of looking after your mind, body and safety as all inevitably interlink.”

Finola Colgan, development officer with Mental Health Ireland, said that while many of us can struggle and experience stress in our daily lives, it is important that we understand that farmers face a unique set of challenges that impact on their way of life and work.

“Equally important is that they know they are not alone. It is with this in mind that we developed this new leaflet promoting relevant resources,” she said.