“Talk about vulnerability, because to open up is an absolute strength”.

“Talk about vulnerability, because to open up is an absolute strength”.

Ally Brunton, Agri Affairs Vice Chair of SAYFC wrote this week in the Press & Journal (Farming Section):

“I wanted to write about an issue that I think is currently one of the biggest threats to our industry, mental health. In the UK, there is more than one person a week working within agriculture that takes their own life. This is a seriously alarming figure, that as an industry we have to do more to reduce!

I’m not a massive fan of the use of the words ‘mental health’, because of the negative connotations.  I believe everyone has mental health, just like we all have physical health. Just like your physical fitness, your mental fitness can fluctuate. Everyone has good days and bad days, but it’s the frequency of these that is the backbone of your mental health. According to a recent survey by Yellow Wellies as part of their ‘Mind Your Head’ campaign, 84% of farmers under the age of 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden danger facing the industry today. Another interesting result of their survey was that 85% of young farmers agree that there is a definite link between mental health and farm safety.

COVID19 has brought attention to the need to take precautionary measures to reduce the risk of exposing ourselves, loved ones and our workforce to this danger. Why don’t we do the same the rest of the time?

Farming continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK, accounting for 20% of all workplace deaths but only 1% of the economy. I’ve seen a ridiculous number of farmers on social media and even the news in the last few weeks cruising around without a helmet on. This only adds to the negative perception of the industry and only normalises bad practice. So use your head and always wear a helmet when riding an ATV!

I think we are all aware that COVID has made this year incredibly difficult with farmers recognised as key workers, playing an essential role in producing food for the country. The last eight months has seen the industry face the usual pressures of farming but combined with the additional challenge of restrictions and heightened isolation. Often, the support of those around us has helped get us through but I know for myself, I have struggled this year without the social aspect of Young Farmers and shows, which I probably use as a bit of a release. Over the festive period, where we would normally be spending time with friends and family, isolation is going to be a serious issue. It’s important for us all to reach out and check in with friends, even if it’s just a case of picking up the phone to chew the fat.

You may have seen some of the SAYFC bale art around the country recently, with the message encouraging us all to ‘keep talking’. This was in partnership with RSABI, a charity designed to support those working within Scottish agriculture. They are there for when you are struggling and it is important to ask for help when times are tough. Current New Zealand All Black Anton Lienart-Brown recently said “I love talking about vulnerability, because to open up is an absolute strength”.

Team SAYFC have recently completed Movember, a charity that aims to change the face of men’s health. They aim to reduce the number of men dying young from testicular and prostate cancer. Mental health and suicide prevention is the third cause they support. Globally on average, one man dies by suicide every minute of every day. Three out of four suicides in the UK are by men, the main reason behind this is that women are far better at talking openly about their problems. Our Movember team consisted of 14 member and over the month we managed to walk or run over 600km. Growing some very questionable top lip fur all is all a bit of fun, but with a very serious message behind it. We are delighted to have raised over £3000.”