The reality of issues facing Donegal farmers when it comes to mental health was voiced at a meeting in Letterkenny this week.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of Donegal Irish Farmers’ Association on Tuesday night, a member from the floor, in reaction to a talk from HSE Promotions Officer Anne Sheridan, on the subject of stress and mental health in the farming sector, said: “100%” of farmers would be discriminated against by lending agencies if they declared a mental health issue.”
“50% of farmers are in debt 70% of the time so they don’t want the banks to know. They would be 100% discriminated against and it would be the same if thy were dying from cancer,” the speaker said.
The remarks came after the talk by Ms. Sheridan outlined that research shows 57% farmers wouldn’t want others to know if they have a mental health issue, 42% would hide their diagnosis and 27% would delay help in case others may learn of their condition.
Her talk came as the IFA issued a new leaflet detailing the issues surrounding stress and depression in farmers.
She added that by 2020, it’s predicted that depression will be the second biggest health problem.
She highlighted some of the specific factors for farmers, including the economic situation, farm inspections, the weather, isolation and fears for the future.
She said there was now a greater deal of help than ever before and many of them were in the form of locally based support groups as well as HSE services.
Ms Sheridan said the motto “there is no health without mental health” was true as it affects “many areas of your life”.
She said among the best thing to do to help if a situation arises was to talk it over with friends and family or contact their GP.
In more practical terms she said were self acceptance, drinking responsibly, eating healthily, staying touch with friends and family and taking regular exercise were important.
Following the talk a number of issues were raised by audience members on the subject of mental health and the problems of revealing such issues with others.
One speaker said: “The perception of what the bank might say to you - that’s one of the big problems of not talking about it.”
Donegal IFA Chairman, PJ McMonagle, said although there is some great support groups such as GROW, seeking help for the first time was a problem for farmers.
“It is a big barrier, making that first call. It is very hard make that first call,” he said.
Ms. Sheridan said this information was “really important” to know and she would be raising it within the HSE.