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Published on May 19, 2020

Mental Health – It’s OK to ask for help

Nick Bailey appeals for an increased awareness of the dangers to poultry farmers from mental illness.

“Thankfully, there is a growing realisation and recognition that poultry farming involves unique factors that can lead to depression and other mental illnesses.

As a sector we must learn to recognise the early signals and encourage family members, colleagues and friends to seek help”.

Poultry farming can be a stressful and demanding business. Working long, physically demanding hours, often in isolation, while balancing commercial factors, against a constantly changing regulatory regime and shifting market forces can take its toll.

In a traditionally male dominated sector where an old fashioned, macho culture continues to prevail, there are estimates that one life is lost to suicide every week in the farming community. Delays in recognising the onset of mental health problems, in yourself or others, combined with a reluctance to seek help can make matters worse.

It is just as important for farmers to keep their minds strong as it is to keep their bodies strong – and there is no shame in seeking help. Speaking openly up about your mental health is the first step towards recovery and encourages others to acknowledge their own concerns.

What Are the Symptoms?

The common symptoms of depression are:

  • Change in appetite (either a loss or increase)
  • Inability to sleep or changing sleep patterns
  • Constant tiredness
  • Obsessive worrying or blowing problems out of proportion
  • Low mood, feeling sad or tearful, or being unable to cry
  • Acting out of character
  • Unhealthy consumption of alcohol
  • Isolation from loved ones, family and friends
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Decreased interest in activities or hobbies previously enjoyed
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Persistent negative thought

It's Ok to Ask for Help!

If you recognise these symptoms, please contact your GP, or contact one of these supportive and caring organisations.

  • The Farming Community Network confidential national helpline which is open every day of the year, 7am-11pm (03000 111999). There is also an e-helpline (help@fcn.org.uk). The group provides a visiting service to those who would like help beyond a telephone conversation.

  • The YANA (You Are Not Alone) project – YANA is a group providing support for and spreading awareness about mental health in the agricultural sector in Norfolk and Suffolk. Their helpline is 0300 323 0400.

  • Mind – Mind gives advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. The group has a network of about 135 local “Minds” across England and Wales. Their helpline (open 9am-6pm Mondays to Fridays) is 0300 123 3393. They can be reached through text at 86463 or via e-mail.

  • Samaritans – Samaritans is a group that provides support to individuals experiencing emotional distress and having difficulty coping. They can be reached 24/7 at 116 123 for free from any phone, or e-mail. You may also visit their website for details on how to reach the nearest branch.

  • Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI) – The RSABI assists people and their families in the Scottish agriculture sector by offering emotional, practical and financial support. They can be reached through their helpline at 0300 111 4166.

Healthy farmers run healthy farms

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