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Agricultural Education & Careers

Who can help when it comes to wellbeing in agriculture?

I have never been sure what the word “wellbeing” actually means. Initially I thought it a synonym to being healthy; after all, one talks about the “health and wellbeing” of an individual. However, a quick look at my on-line dictionary proclaims that wellbeing is “the state of being comfortable, healthy, and/or happy”. So when it comes to wellbeing in agriculture, a question might be asked, “as someone who works in agriculture, are you comfortable, healthy and happy?”

Assessing the physical health of a person, be it a farmer or grower, an agronomist, a plant scientist, crop protection salesperson is relatively straightforward; there are simple tests and highly complex machinery, together with highly educated professionals who can assess such things. But happiness? That is more of a mental health perspective, with much less defined symptoms, fewer “check-ups” available, and where almost no machinery that can help.

So to improve wellbeing, you need health and happiness? For some, a regular supply of a good night’s sleep is a good start to both aspects of wellbeing; for others, having time off can also help. Having a first aid kit is always going to help in the case of a minor injury but what happens when your mental wellbeing takes a hit? As with many areas of employment, the agricultural industry has its issues with mental health. You would expect that there would be more problems with those in agriculture that work long hours, frequently without much other human contact. That said, I was delighted when Bayer recognised that those working in all parts of our business had the potential to suffer from stress and wellbeing issues, to the point that we have mental health “first aiders” as well as the routine sort; trained and ready to help where employees are struggling.

But where or to whom do you turn if you are a farmer or grower or another contributor to the food supply chain, and you feel that your wellbeing is under stress or failing? Luckily there are organisations out there to help you, and three of them have joined Bayer in actively supporting  Farmers Weekly’s #Fit2Farm initiative:

1. The Farming Community Network

This is a voluntary organisation that supports farmers and families within the farming community. It recognises that farming can be a very isolating and lonely occupation. In an attempt to help, the FCN run a confidential national helpline and e-helpline which is open every day of the year; you will not be the only one that calls them; the FCN receives 100-150 calls to its helpline every month.

2. The Worshipful Company of Farmers

Recognising from research, that wellbeing was a key issue in agriculture, the Worshipful Company of Farmers gathered many of the organisations working in the wellbeing arena in 2017.

One output of that first forum was the compilation of a national directory of currently available resources open to those in need.

3. The Farm Safety Foundation

Perhaps better known as Yellow Wellies, the Farm Safety Foundation was formed to raise awareness of farm safety, especially among young farmers. They also recognised that mental health was also very important with suicide being the single biggest cause of death for men in the UK under the age of 49. Their campaign runs under the hashtag of #RealMenTalk #MindYourHead

A quick browse of the national directory suggests that there is a lot of help out there, but it is clear to me that the person who can help most when it comes to wellbeing in agriculture is you. I believe that if I look after myself, I am also looking after my family and my work life, and talking about it helps.

So if you feel that you are at a low ebb, you need to talk about it. If you see others that need help, why not start a conversation today…?

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