On-going mental distress can lead to anxiety and depression, while it can also increase the expectation of accidental injury, a recent joint survey has revealed.

The survey was carried out among 121 active male dairy farmers by Teagasc, the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) and the University of Limerick (UL).

From a positive perspective, the study shows that social support has a positive influence on reducing mental distress.

Mental distress on the farm can be caused by:
  • On-going work time pressure,
  • Bureaucracy,
  • Financial pressure,
  • Work unpredictability
  • The presence of farm hazards.

The recent joint study follows a Health and Safety Authority report in 2013 which indicated that a higher percentage of the farming population suffered from poor well-being (16%) than the general Irish population (12%).

The study provides initial evidence that farm stress and, in particular, financial stress, may contribute to increased vulnerability of farmers, to farm accidents, according to co-author Dr Denis O’Hora.

Farmers and their families need to be on the lookout for signs of mental distress, and to seek help when needed, he outlined.

O’Hora, who is part of the School of Psychology in NUIG, also said that when farmers actively participate in the local community, this develops a social support network that can build and protect positive mental health.

Meanwhile, Teagasc programmes are strongly focused on securing farm health and safety, farm profitability and work organisation to manage work time, Dr John McNamara indicated.

The Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist urged farmers to discuss farm related issues causing them challenges with their advisor or consultant.

McNamara also advised farmers to obtain a regular health check and to contact their General Practitioner regarding any immediate health concern.

Mental Health Ireland, the national voluntary body promoting positive mental health and wellbeing provides information on how to remain positive and maintain your mental health.

Eating healthy, keeping active, drink less alcohol, taking time to relax with family or friends or simply getting a food nights sleep can all contribute to improving or maintaining your mental healthy.

Seeking help

If you can relate to this story and feel affected by its contents you should seek advice.

Here are agencies which could help during difficult times.

Turn2Me or Aware or Pieta House or the Samaritans