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'I know too many young farmers who have died by suicide'

A new calendar aims to start a conversation about mental health in the agricultural community.

MEMBERS OF MACRA na Feirme, a national organisation for young adults from farming backgrounds, have produced a calendar aimed at promoting positive mental health.

Funds raised from the calendar will go towards St Patrick’s Walk in My Shoes campaign.

Macra has described the calendar as a “tongue in cheek” look at farming.

Áine O’ Callaghan, from Termonfeckin Macra in Co Louth, said she wanted to appear in the calendar because she knows too many people who have taken their own lives in the farming community – particularly young men.

The amount of people I know involved in agriculture who have taken their own lives is too high. You’d do anything you can to help.

I do know a lot, too many, young men who have gone down that route. I’m hearing too much of it in the last three to five years.

Áine noted that some men want to give off the impression they’re a “big tough farming lad and nothing gets to them”, but said attitudes are changing and people are becoming more comfortable with discussing their emotions.

A recent survey carried out by the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy found that 25% of respondents from the farming community said they would have difficulty discussing their personal problems.

Áine works in a pharmacy, but her father and boyfriend are both farmers.

She said taking part in the shoot was daunting but noted: “Everyone was in the same boat. We all mucked in and had great craic. You knew you were doing something good.”

'I know too many young farmers who have died by suicide'
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  • Claire Walsh of Kilkenny City Macra (reigning Kilkenny Rose).

    Source: Pat Moore/Macra
  • Mallow's Siobhan Leamy, a member of Awbeg Macra, and Limerick Macra's Kate Manning.

    Source: Pat Moore/Macra
  • Brendan Phelan, Callan Macra, Kilkenny; Ciaran O'Donnell, Suirvale Macra, South Tipperary; Siobhan Leamy, Awbeg Macra, Avondhu and Áine O'Callaghan, Termonfeckin Macra, Louth.

    Source: Pat Moore
  • Áine O' Callaghan, Termonfeckin Macra, Co Louth.

    Source: Pat Moore/Macra

Brendan Phelan is a member of Callan Macra in Kilkenny. He also said he knows of too many people who have died by suicide.

Any county you go to, any parish you go into, there’s always people affected by suicide.

Brendan said farming can be a particularly lonely career due to the long hours and lack of income. He said it’s “impossible” for some farmers to socialise as they might be holding down two jobs or not have a lot of money.

Brendan works part-time on his father’s farm and also works as a civil engineer and commercial diver.

He said the calendar is “a huge step for Macra” as it will help conversations about mental health to take place around the country.

Social isolation

Claire Walsh, the current Kilkenny Rose, also took part in the shoot. She’s a primary teacher in Laois but her dad is a dairy farmer.

She said Macra provides a great outlet for so many people in terms of socialising and making friends. Claire said she was spurred on to take part in the calendar because her friend’s sister died by suicide a few years ago.

Macra president Seán Finan, noted:

Protecting our mental health is as important as keeping physically fit. Macra is an organisation that helps you keep mentally fit by getting involved, playing team sports and building up your social skills. Macra provides a social outlet for young people, whether they live in isolated parts of rural Ireland or the middle of a city.

The calendars cost €10 and will be available from the Macra, Irish Farmers Journal and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services stands at the National Ploughing Championships this week. More information is available here.

Helplines:

  • Console  1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Bressie introduces his depression – his mate Jeffrey

Read: The new Irish Farmer Calendar just landed, fetch our smelling salts

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