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Dublin: 2°C Sunday 17 January 2021

One-in-three Irish farmers don't share their problems

Isolation and loneliness among farmers can make them more vulnerable to mental health issues, says study.

Crops break ground in Co Kildare. Farming can be a lonely and isolating activity, according to researchers.
Crops break ground in Co Kildare. Farming can be a lonely and isolating activity, according to researchers.
Image: Eamonn Farrell Photocall Ireland

ALMOST ONE IN three members of the farming community don’t tell anyone about their personal problems and difficulties, according to a study commissioned by the Irish Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy.

The research, which looked at farmer’ attitudes to mental health problems, backed up previous findings from other studies which showed that Irish farmers hide mental health problems from friends.

According to the IACP, not sharing these problems can make a bad situation worse, especially when people live far away from their neighbors.

“Bottling up personal problems can lead to physical and mental ill health, especially where people live in more isolated communities” said Dr. Harry Barry, a GP from Drogheda who works with mental health charity Aware. “I would urge everyone to discuss their problems with a friend or family member, or their GP. Treatments don’t have to involve medication.”

The Irish Farmers Association said it was not surprised by the results of the study.

“By its nature farming is very isolating” Margaret Healy, Chairperson of the National Farm Family & Social Policy Committee at the IFA told thejournal.ie.

The countryside might be more built up but there are less neighbors as a lot are now commuting to work. There might be no-one in the house from seven in the morning until seven in the evening which means that farming is even more of a lonely occupation than it was before.

According to the study, 86 per cent of farmers have never attended a Counsellor or Psychotherapist while one-in-five members of the farming community would feel embarrassed if people knew they were attending a counsellor or psychotherapist.

However, because of the sharp economic downturn, the recession had offered a silver lining for many people, said Healy.

“People are realisng they need people. When we had money and had material wealth, it was a situation of ‘ah sure, i dont need anyone’. Many now see that they need to talk rather than just putting their hand up to say hi and driving by. We’re trying to send out the message that you need to talk to someone. A problem shared is a problem halved.”

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