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Working Towards Positive Mental Health

Over the last number of months, farming has been challenging. COVID-19 has made the normal demands of farming even more difficult which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. Francis Bligh & John McNamara, Teagasc Health & Safety Specialists have some advice on Positive Mental Health.

Over the last number of months, farming has been challenging. COVID-19 has made the normal demands faced by farmers such as workload, changes in weather, market prices, animal and crop diseases and dealing with paperwork even more difficult.

Dealing with these demands can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and this can make us lose confidence in our ability to cope. For many, work on the farm can be so busy that it is hard to fully recognise that we have an unmanageable level of stress. Some of us try to ignore the problem, some feel embarrassed to talk about it and some of us will actively seek help from a friend, advisor or health professional.   

The below video ‘Farmer health and wellbeing’ focusses on stress in farming

Stay socially connected

Farmers can feel isolated on the farm. Working hours can be long, farm tasks are generally carried out without any help and public health guidance for managing COVID-19 has further increased this feeling of isolation. Our mobile phone has become one of the most important tools to help us stay connected in this “new normal”.  A simple phone call can have a very positive impact on us and others.  It is important that we take the time and use our phones to stay in touch with others.

The below video ‘Farming, COVID-19 and your Mental Health’ focusses on minding your mental health at this time of social distancing due to COVID-19.

Managing farming life

It is important to plan and organise farm work in order to be productive and efficient.

When jobs are planned and organised they are less stressful and safer. Teagasc Advisors or agricultural consultants are available to help in this area. Teagasc has some very useful advice on managing farming life with COVID 19. This can be found online here Best on-farm practice for Covid-19 

Staying physically active

Take time to exercise regularly, this could involve a brisk walk or cycle. When we eat well, rest well and are not forced to push ourselves too hard our daily tasks are more pleasant and safer.

Regular health check up with your GP

A major Irish study was published in June 2020. The research found that 74% of male farmers have four, or more, risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This means they are three times more likely to have an acute cardiac event (stroke or heart attack) compared to those with fewer risk factors. 75% of all farmers participating in the research were advised to visit their GP to get further support and advice. The direct link between good physical and mental health may not be obvious but health problems can have an impact on our ability to carry out farming tasks. It may increase number of hours worked, reduce our ability to cope with workloads and in turn impact negatively on mental health. For more information on the ‘Farmers Have Hearts’ Cardiovascular Health Programme’ click here 

Teagasc publication ‘Staying Fit for Farming’ provides information on ways to stay healthy. You can download this free publication by clicking here

Farming Resilience

Mental Health Ireland along with Teagasc and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) have partnered to co-host and co-deliver information and resources through a special Farming Resilience online page. The aim is to support farmers and their families through the challenges posed by Covid-19. Check out practical evidence-based ways to support personal and farm business resilience here 

Where can I find out more about Positive Mental Health?

  • Teagasc Advisors and Farm Consultants are available to farmers to advice on farm management issues. Farming organisations offer services to their members.
  • A person’s GP should be consulted regularly and when needed.
  • Teagasc video farmer health and wellbeing 
  • Teagasc publication ‘Positive Mental Health in Farming’ has a wide range of information and advice on minding your mental health. 
  • Teagasc publication ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming’ has been researched and collated to address the many and varied issues that contribute to stress.
  • The Samaritans can be contacted at 1850 60 90 90. Their website gives a list of support agencies.
  • St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin provides a Support & Information Service staffed by experienced mental health nurses 9-5 Monday to Friday with an answering and call-back facility outside hours. You can contact the Support & Information service by calling 01 249 3333.
  • The HSE provides a wide range of community and hospital based mental health services in Ireland, find out more here 

 Compiled by:

  • Francis Bligh, Teagasc, Health and Safety Specialist
  • Dr John McNamara, Teagasc, Health and Safety Specialist