This has certainly been a memorable year, but perhaps one that some people would like to forget parts of.

We’ve had bad weather, high costs and reduced prices.

This has made life stressful for many.

It is no surprise then that one of the most engaging sessions at last week’s Irish Tillage and Land Use Society’s winter conference was with Dr Eddie Murphy and farmers David Kerr and Harold Kingston.

They spoke about minding your mental health, how to try and spot the signs of depression or anxiety in someone you know and tools to help people to cope.

Most importantly, David and Harold spoke about their recovery and continuing to mind their mental health.

Eddie explained that good mental health is not the absence of depression or anxiety, but the presence of positivity. He said that we all need a balance of work, rest and play.

We need to schedule sleep, food and time off for ourselves.

The psychiatrist who is best known for his time on RTÉ’s Operation Transformation said that loneliness can have the same impact on your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day and can take three years off your life.

The one clear message from the day was that if you are feeling stressed or unwell you should tell someone and go to your GP who can guide you on what to do next.


Eddie explained that we need a certain amount of stress in our lives. Stress can make you get up in the morning and give us energy, but when stress becomes distress it is a problem. Stress can lead to you doing loads of work and not taking a break. After this, you may experience burnout.

Burnout, Eddie explained, is when you are completely exhausted and have no energy. If you are feeling like this, telling someone and going to your GP is the first port of call to get help.

Taking a break

Tillage farmers often spend a lot of time in the tractor or the combine during busy periods. They work extremely hard, long hours when the weather is suitable for field work. In this time, it is still important to take breaks.

Farmers should get enough sleep, eat well and if you can’t leave the tractor, try and escape from work by listening to podcasts or music in the tractor. Phone someone for a chat, using the hands-free set of course.

Outside and inside of the busy times, Harold and David stressed the importance of getting away from the farm whether that to be to play or watch sport, to a farm organisation meeting or just out for a quiet drink or soft drink in the local pub, while at the same time warning not to use alcohol to cope with the problem.

Some of the symptoms of depression are outlined below.

If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of depression then talk to your GP or talk to the person and try to get them to contact their GP. It only takes two weeks of symptoms to be diagnosed with clinical depression.

Signs of depression

  • Over or under sleeping.
  • Early morning awakening.
  • Agitation or anger.
  • Over or under eating.
  • Hopelessness.