“EVERY farmer knows someone who has killed themselves, and every farmer knows several who are suffering with depression”, that is the startling reality of farming said Cheshire’s Agricultural Chaplain.
Keith Ineson, finds out at first-hand the difficulties farmers face and why they are so prone to depression. He offers pastoral care to Cheshire’s farmers and a listening ear to those that need help.
Statistics from Defra show that between 1997 and 2006, the suicide rate for farmers was more than double the rate for all workers except in 2005.
Keith said: “Farmers have always been depressed it is an occupational hazard, and it is because of the isolation and the loneliness of the job.”
Keith has been an Agricultural Chaplain for eight years, and he said when he first started farmers were “amazed” someone wanted to find out how they were.
“Farmers had folk coming to the farm to check up on animal welfare, hygiene, health and safety, their accounts and so on but nobody ever checked up on how they were.”
“Then in 2001 foot- and-mouth hit us and I was working around the clock. It resurrected memories of the outbreak of 1967 which had been disastrous for Cheshire farming. Although we didn’t get foot-and-mouth the knock-on effect was huge.”
After foot-and-mouth Keith no longer had to go and see farmers because they came to him.
Keith said: “My big advantage is that my wife and I were farmers ourselves. We bought a poultry farm, and it all came out about salmonella and it collapsed and I also suffer with depression. It helps because when I am talking to farmers they know I have been there.”
Keith said his main role is to listen to the farmers and encourage them to seek help from their doctor.
“If they won’t go to the doctors there is me to off load to. I can also get specialist help such as business advice, debt advice, and legal help.”
“In a normal job you have problems at work, but then you go home at night, you leave work at work. When you are on the farm everybody on the farm is involved. When you want to clear your head, you go for a walk, when a farmer goes for a walk they go straight into the farm yard. The problems are always there.”
Keith said one of the contributing factors to the depression is the tremendous debt many farmers are in.
Many are now leaving the industry because they cannot survive. Statistics from Defra show the number of full-time farmers fell by 4.5% between 2006 and 2007. Keith said their financial situation often adds to the spiral of depression and it is all too common.
He said: “Every farmers knows someone who has killed themselves, and every farmer knows several who are suffering with depression. That is the hidden reality of the situation.”
Keith said if farmers get help they will get better.
“After they have contacted either me or another agency for help some can start feeling better within a couple of weeks. Other will take a bit longer.”
To contact Keith call him on (01270) 522576, or e-mail him on email@example.com. Visit his website at www.agchap.co.uk. Keith also runs a social farmers meetings and works with the Farms Crisis Network.