Promoting mental health awareness in agriculture

Ag Mental Health Week 2020 runs from 10th – 16th October. Peter Hynes explains how the initiative came to fruition and why mental wellbeing in agriculture is important, now more than ever.

Recently as I sat writing an article on farm safety week the thought crossed my mind that tragically we lose more farmers to suicide than we do to farm accidents yet we have no specific week dedicated to mental health awareness in agriculture.

Over the last few years alongside running a fulltime dairy farm, we have been lucky enough to work on many fun projects, speaking about mental health at some top class conferences while also making so many amazing friends and contacts along the way. I knew in the back of my mind we could get an agriculture mental health week of the ground by utilising social media as a platform that would benefit the broader community.

We decided to coincide a week long global conversation in the agricultural sector with World Mental Health Day so #AgMentalHealthWeek 2020 runs from 10th – 16th October. Three social media platforms were launched, Instagram as it is a key platform for younger farmers, Facebook as we can livestream panel discussions and Twitter as a key platform to drive the week forward.

Following many DMs to farmers and contacts around the world, we created ambassador videos from across the agricultural sector. A top class guest panel will discuss many aspects of mental health in agriculture on six nights for 30 minutes, all of which will be live steamed on Facebook. We will have daily tips on mental wellbeing as this is a key area the sector needs to focus on.

There is a 50% chance a farmer will struggle with their mental health during their career, but by prioritising their mental wellbeing it will give them the tools to cope when times of pressure arrive. I will also be live streaming a discussion with Dr Hannah McCormack where we  will discuss the Tackle Your Feelings App and how it can be a key tool to help manage our mental wellbeing. We will also be posting a list of global support services on a daily basis and I firmly believe this is vital because if someone is in crisis and scrolling through the timeline, they will be guided towards immediate supports.

Yes it has been a challenge putting Ag Mental Health Week together especially with a short lead time this year, dealing with three major time zones adds to the workload as we have conversations going on with Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, UK and Ireland. But we’ve always believed in surrounding ourselves with a great team of people, so many of whom we can call friends and we are so grateful to all of those people for helping us pull this together.

Becoming a Tackle Your Feelings ambassadors in 2018 was an extremely proud moment for me and over the last few years it is something that has grown even closer to our hearts. While we have been fortunate enough to speak about the campaign at events in Kilkenny, Glasgow and Nairobi in many ways I truly believe Tackle Your Feelings has helped us grow as individuals giving us the tools to manage our mental wellbeing better which is vital when we lead such busy lives.

It’s as if Tackle Your Feelings planted a seed in us helping us to grow, installing more confidence is us to support our broader community spreading the word on how important it is for all of us to prioritise our mental wellbeing yet when we need a little support in driving that message the campaign is sitting right behind us supporting us when we need it. Best of all is knowing there is a truly wonderful team of people within the campaign and across the Zurich network whom we consider great friends. Winning the Zurich Farmer of the Year in 2017 was a special night, the friends we have made within Zurich Insurance since has made it all the more special.

If you wish to join the conversation from the 10th – 16th October 2020 follow #AgMentalHealthWeek or check out our social media pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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