Anxiety, overload and mental issues for farmers

with Don Fraser
Fraser Farm Finance

I make no apology for going back over this yet again, but the issues are huge. To be frank the statistics of suicide in farming are appalling, and many farmers are really struggling with themselves and mental health issues.

It seems that a long period of overload and pressure, particularly in dairying, is causing farmers to “hit the wall”. I had two farmers in two days saying just that. They were working long hours, had and were in stressful situations and just “hit the wall” one day. It left them feeling flat, anxious and unhappy and eventually finding their way to their GP and being prescribed antidepressants. Fortunately both are making changes in their lives to improve their situation and get out the mire, so to speak.

Many do not and just keep on doing the same thing and getting the same result. It is also about that incredible pride that we farmers have. Keeping up appearances to us is everything. If only we knew how many others were struggling and in the same boat. The Rural Support Trust is doing a sterling job, but with limited resources and helping the tip of the iceberg I would guess.

Compounding factor

Some compounding factors may include: long hours, no breaks or time off, interlocking decisions, financial pressure and lack of financial understanding, nobody to talk to, inability to talk about their feelings – that she’ll be right mentality) – family expectations, feed shortages, skinny cows, politics, disease, not feeling in control, personal health issues, Bovis threat dairy company not caring, relationship issues, that ‘it can’t happen to me’ attitude, feelings of hopelessness, no outside interests; an inability to see an easier and better way of doing things. And so the list goes on.

This is a big one: realising and accepting we are getting older and not as handsome as we used to be; let alone sexual dysfunction and running out of steam. All this seems to put us fellows on a negative tilt. The tilt increases the worry, along with everything else and seems to drag us down with the inability to ‘pop up’ again.

The feeling of overload and anxiety is obvious and awful. It is hideous and very frightening and debilitating. It causes a whole raft of other things to start happening including shaking hands, sleeplessness, fear, heart palpitations, anger, overheating, and so on.

If you feel you are getting near your limit and some strange stuff is starting to happen please put your hand up and seek proper help. This will come in many forms which will usually start with your wife, doctor, rural support trust or friend.

Soldiering on in the same old stuff is not a solution.

Seek help

And if you personally see someone who is clearly showing signs of anxiety and overload, please step up and offer to help. Remember, they will only tell you 10 to 20 per cent of what is really happening for them. To dig down a bit and get a bit more of the 90 to 80 per cent they are not letting you in on takes time and is really for the professionals.

Finally, if you find yourself “hitting the wall” rest assured you are not on your own. The signals may or may not initially be obvious to you but will be there to those around you. Please accept that it is okay to find yourself burnt out. Accept that you have a problem and most importantly accept that you probably cannot solve it on your own and will need to seek outside help.

Disclaimer – These are the opinions of Don Fraser of Fraser Farm Finance. Any decisions made should not be based on this article alone and appropriate professional assistance should be sought. Don Fraser is the principal of Fraser Farm Finance and a consultant to the Farming Industry. Contact him on 0800 777 675 or 021 777 675. A disclosure document is available on request.


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