Farmers are under immense pressure with the responsibility lying with everyone, including government departments and wider society, according to Mid-Tyrone Sinn Fein councillor Sean Donnelly.
The member of the Fermanagh-Omagh Council Agriculture Committee was speaking after attending the ‘Resilient Farmers Conference’ organised by Rural Support, Embrace FARM and the Farm Safety Foundation, which focused on farmers health and wellbeing.
“As a hill farmer I understand the challenges faced by farmers,” he said. “Long hours, hazardous conditions, fluctuating prices and farming can be a very solitary, lonely activity with associated mental health problems. As one contributor said at the meeting, we are ‘prisoners of hope’.
“This is compounded by a very uncertain future with the Brexit chaos and the removal of the ANC/LFA support from this year.
“We heard from medical professionals who highlighted concerns about farmer’s health, poor diet and unwillingness to seek medical help or advice. I was startled to learn that one farmer per week in the North and Britain takes their own life.
“Sadly, farmers who are mentally unfit are less likely to develop and grow their farm business and are more likely to make bad decisions such as taking risks that can be life changing or worse. The reverberations for them and their families can be devastating.
“It was clear from the discussion that a more integrated approach is needed which draws from the fields of psychology, social support, government, community, medical and business to help farmers cope in these ever changing times.
“I commend the organisers for taking this very important and timely initiative and as a member of the Fermanagh-Omagh Council Agriculture Committee I intend to discuss the issues raised at our next meeting and explore how we as local government can play our part in developing an integrated approach to help safeguard farmer’s well-being.”