‘Help is out there’, says farmer as suicides rise

Sheep being fed in the Ingram Valley during the Beast from the East.
Sheep being fed in the Ingram Valley during the Beast from the East.

A Northumberland farmer is encouraging people in the industry to seek help if they need it, after figures emerged that more then one farmer a week in the UK commits suicide.

Mark Mather, from Wooler, has held meetings with the Farming Community Network (FCN) and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) to discuss the situation.

While he says that it is a national issue, he wants to spread the message to local farmers that help is out there if they need it.

He said: “I don’t want people thinking they are alone, thinking that they have nobody to speak to. We need to get the message out there that there are people willing to help, or have a talk and point you in the right direction.”

Figures by the Office for National Statistics show that levels of depression in the industry are thought to be increasing and suicide rates in farmers are among the highest in any occupational group.

They also reveal that the risk of suicide was higher among those working in specific agricultural roles such as harvesting crops and rearing animals.

Mark admits that the figures are alarming and fears that this year’s Beast from the East – which impacted farmers in Northumberland – will only add to industry pressures.

He said: “We are still feeling the problems that the Beast from the East caused and I don’t think we have felt the full extent of the damage yet.

“Farmers have reduced their livestock and there’s questions about how much feed and silage will cost next winter.

“So there could be financial pressures, and then there’s those people who were out in the cold, faced with dead lambs – that can take its toll.

“I myself have been in the lambing shed at 3am, thinking what am I going to do here.

“It can be tough, but help is there if you need it. I would also urge the public to help, by buying locally and supporting British farming.”

FCN supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times. Call the FCN on 03000 111999.

The RABI supports farmers who are struggling financially. The helpline is 0808 2819490.