Just under a quarter (23.4%) of farmers who responded to a survey carried out by UCD said they had suicidal thoughts in the two weeks prior to taking part in the survey.

Speaking at Teagasc’s farm safety conference on Friday, associate professor of psychology at UCD Louise McHugh said that Irish farmers have “statistically higher” suicidal thoughts when compared with the Irish population in general (14.6%).

“When we looked at suicide risk, we saw that 23.4% were considered at risk for suicide - that is that they said in the past two weeks they had thoughts of or urges around taking their own life.

Farm stressors

Government policy designed to reduce climate change, outsiders not understanding farming and concern over the future of the farm were the top three stressors for farmers in the study, according to McHugh.

The study also looked at effective and desired supports or interventions for Irish farmers.

“Farmers talked about wanting to have peer-led interventions with a psychologist, but certainly they wanted people who had a farming background. Moving forward, being able to get interventions that can be rolled out by vets, advisors or by people who support farmers and getting into the prevention space could be really effective, but this needs to be tested,” she said.

Some 256 farmers took part in the survey and the average age of those in the study was 38.