If you had asked me last Friday what my upcoming column topic was likely to be, I would probably have said the IFA protests.
But by Saturday morning crèches and pensions were swimming around in my head as more details of the Budget came through.
There are so many challenges to discuss. But how healthy is that for any of us; constantly bemoaning the challenges and perhaps in the process losing sight of joy in our lives?
I was reminded to read the research paper of Conor Hammersley (Teagasc, IT Carlow) in full – which focuses on male physical and mental health outcomes – when I heard him speak on Countrywide last Saturday.
I circled a point where Conor quotes a research colleague; Where male farmers’ identity was deeply rooted in the cultural and physical spaces of farming, rates of suicide increased when their livelihood became threatened, and they could not imagine a way of being other than ‘the farmer’.
Conor, in response, advised that the unintended impact or “ripple effect” of changes to agricultural policy and the restructuring of farming on the health and wellbeing of farmers must be considered.
Hopefully by the time you read this, they will have announced a budget that demonstrates this understanding
The biggest driver of structural change in our agricultural systems is climate change. The way that we farm and work and live will be transformed. It is imperative, and supported by this research, that Government acknowledge the deep mental impact that this is having on farmers and their families. Hopefully by the time you read this, they will have announced a budget that demonstrates this understanding.
Conor’s paper dedicates a section to the serious consequences of isolation on people’s mental health. We have just come through the most severe and extended period of enforced isolation. Many now need a period of stability to recover from that.
I hope that the Government might therefore reflect this week on the impact of the changes coming at farmers
Suffice to say, the level of instability that is being thrust on farm families, in relation to their way of life and farming systems is coming just at the wrong time, with many still suffering the mental fallout of the pandemic.
This week (10-16 October) is Ag Mental Health Week. I hope that the Government might therefore reflect this week on the impact of the changes coming at farmers and the considerable noise, stress, division and confusion that brings with it and take action to help.
I have found that my walk has become crowded with the noise and challenges like those referenced in the first paragraph
The organisers encouraged all involved in the ag industry to get out for a one-mile walk or run on Wednesday. I like to go for a walk most days, if possible, to clear the head. However, of late I have found that my walk has become crowded with the noise and challenges like those referenced in the first paragraph. I had taken to catching up on radio pieces that I missed, podcasts which were informative but left me cold emotionally, or college lectures I needed to study for. Our psychotherapist Enda Murphy, in his mental health column this month, spoke about how any activity that “turns off the washing machine in your head” can be your own personal form of meditation.
So with that in mind, I tuned out of the podcasts and lectures and pressed the music app instead. To anyone who witnessed me dancing my way down through the forest last weekend, you can blame a mix of Kashmir, Metallica, David Guetta and Enda. And of course, finding joy.