Strictly star turned farmer backs industry’s mental health campaign

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New figures from different studies suggest a mental health crisis among the UK’s farmers.

A study by the Farm Safety Foundation shows that mental health issues among farmers and agricultural workers are growing with a direct impact on farm safety. Farming has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.

Among farmers under 40, 92% say mental health is the biggest they face; up from 82% in 2018. Of farmers surveyed by the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, 36% admitted to being “possibly” or “probably” depressed.

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In England and Wales in 2020, 44 suicides were registered for those working in the industry according to the Office of National Statistics, while 34 farm workers lost their lives in fatal farm incidents in 2020/21.

Former Strictly and Emmerdale star turned farmer, Kelvin Fletcher, is backing the campaign.Former Strictly and Emmerdale star turned farmer, Kelvin Fletcher, is backing the campaign.
Former Strictly and Emmerdale star turned farmer, Kelvin Fletcher, is backing the campaign.

The past two years have proved extremely challenging for UK farming, with extreme weather conditions, poor harvests, supply chain shortages and the pandemic.

A campaign called Mind Your Head has been set up by the Farm Safety Foundation, offering advice to break down mental health barriers in farming.

The foundation chose Valentine’s Day to launch their campaign, to remind farmers that self-love is important too.

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Professor Louis Appleby of Manchester University’s department of psychiatry, said: “Figures like these are important in understanding the tragedy of suicide. They are not dry data, they are real lives lost, real families devastated.

“No figure, whether high or low, is acceptable. We need to beware of alarming claims and predictions without evidence; misleading and potentially harmful to those in the industry who are already struggling.”

Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation said: “A day like Valentine’s Day which celebrates love and togetherness can often highlight how different, alone or low we feel.

“So it is important to check in with yourself and others and reach out to those who may be feeling down, lonely or struggling.

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Former Emmerdale actor and Strictly winner Kelvin Fletcher, who bought a 120-acre Peak District farm in 2021 is supporting the campaign.

He said: “Before joining farming, I had no idea the community was so heavily impacted by bad mental health. If one person reads about Mind Your Head and decides to reach out or to check in on a loved one, that’s a step in the right direction.”

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