The fallout from Covid-19 on the mental health of farmers will be felt for months if not years to come, Irish Rural Link (IRL) has warned.
Although most pandemic restrictions have been lifted, IRL CEO Seamus Boland said volunteers were “shocked” by the high level of loneliness in the community.
It comes as the Samaritans launch a new mental health campaign with Ireland’s dairy co-operatives by featuring signage from the charity’s helpline on tankers traveling through the countryside.
Today Independent of agriculture also features a special report on Farmer Health, with touching personal testimonials and expert advice on how farmers can maintain their physical and mental well-being while going about their daily farm chores.
“We organized a voluntary Covid response where we mobilized champions in each county to be available to help people with practical help during the heavy lockdowns,” Boland said. “During this period, they all reported that they were surprised and in some cases shocked by the high level of loneliness.
“Unfortunately, we are also aware of a small but significant number of farmer suicides, but we will have to wait for the statistics on this.
“We have always argued that because farmers work alone and endure the ups and downs of farming, they internalize the hardships that threaten their mental health.
“To solve this problem, farmers need agriculture-specific helplines and expert advisors who know agriculture well. Again, the common refrain of more mental health resources is essential.
Louise Lennon, IRL Policy Manager, added that support systems must also target young farmers.
“If a farmer lives alone, they may have no one to share their concerns with or little or no social outlet off the farm,” she said. “While we feel like these issues have always existed, more farmers may come forward or ask for help and support.
“But it’s not where it should be and the ongoing outreach and providing spaces to help farmers talk about it, like the farm safety project, computer classes or really any class , the work that Mental Health Ireland, Irish Men’s Sheds and other organizations are doing must continue to be funded.
“Some of the measures put in place are often targeted at older farmers and older men. Perhaps other support systems should be explored so that young farmers have social contact with the same age cohort. .
“It can be more difficult for young farmers to participate in local sports or local clubs if they are busy farming in the evenings and sometimes at night, especially during the summer months. Macra na Feirme supports the young farmers and has also done work on mental health.
“Covid meant that all social outlets available to farmers were shut down, even markets. The mental health impacts for farmers will be the result for months and even years to come.”