Last week was Mind Your Head 2020, a campaign run by the charity Farm Safety Foundation which puts the mental health and wellbeing of farmers front and centre. Now in its third year, Mind Your Head has highlighted what it believes to be a mental health crisis within the farming sector.
In a recent survey undertaken by The Farm Safety Foundation, 84% of farmers under the age of 40 believe mental health is the largest danger facing the farming industry. The charity has seen an increase in calls to farming charity helplines and in suicide rates among people working in agriculture and related trades in England and Wales.
Whilst many things can contribute to mental health and emotional wellbeing issues, there are a number of pressures facing farmers, from uncertainty around Brexit and trade agreements to changing consumer trends such as movements away from meat consumption. All of this can lead to falling farm income and financial difficulties.
In a sector where so much work is done to ensure high welfare standards for animals, good soil conditions for growing crops and well cultivated habitats for wildlife, it is somewhat sad that the mental health and wellbeing of the farmer can often be overlooked or neglected.
By its nature farming can often be isolating and remote, it is therefore important to remember that a network of professional advisors can be a starting point to discuss concerns and consider solutions. Accountants, land agents, financial advisers and solicitors can all work to resolve issues within the farm business to relieve some of the pressures which famers may be facing. Whilst this may not solve all of the problems which impact on mental health, in such a professional network advisers can also ‘signpost’ other services and areas of support which may be available, be it funding through grants, support from charities or even associations and community groups which can assist in reducing the often common feeling of isolation.
Typically in the older generation mental health issues can arise in the form of dementia which can lead to permanent mental incapacity. However, other mental health issues can result in more transient periods of incapacity. From a practical perspective, it is worth considering entering into a Lasting Power of Attorney. There are two types, one which allows someone (an Attorney) to make decisions about a person’s finances and another which allows an Attorney to make decisions about health and welfare.
In times when getting out of bed can be impossible due to crippling depression, or hospital admission is needed to improve mental health, having an Attorney to help run the farm and/or speak with medical professionals about treatment plans can be invaluable.
Whilst a network of professional advisers cannot profess to have all of the answers or be able to solve every problem, we can listen, we can support and we do care.
At Hay & Kilner our expert advisers are here to help. For more information contact Richard Marshall, or call 0191 232 8345.