Mairead McGuinness praises farmers for taking lead in mental health awareness

Mairead McGuinness MEP. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Farmers deserve praise for taking a lead in “breaking the silence” on mental health, Mairead McGuinness told Embrace Farm’s ‘Resilient Farmer’ conference in the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise.

Ms McGuinness, MEP and first vice-president of the European Parliament, said the textbook image of the strong farmer battling all weathers and all tasks is not a reflection of real farm life.

Founded by Norma and Brian Rohan, Embrace Farm is a bereavement group for farm families.

“We know farming is a dangerous occupation, from the high level of accidents on farms that result in death and injury. But farms are also lonely places, where, increasingly, farmers work alone and neighbours work off-farm,” she said, adding that this time pressure can impact on health, both physical and mental.

“The focus on safety, and the need to tackle the level of fatalities and serious injuries on farms, needs to show results — thus far, this is not the case,” said Ms McGuinness.

While we can count fatalities, we do not count pressures on farmers’ mental health and their well-being, but we know, from experience, that this is an issue.

She cited Teagasc’s publication, Coping with the Pressures of Farming, which highlights that staying well mentally is as important as staying well physically.

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