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Bucks farmer opens up about industry's impact on mental health

An Aylesbury farmer has shared his story following new research on safety.

Published by Scarlett Bawden-Gaul at 5:50am 20th February 2020. 3-minute read.

Bucks farmer opens up about industry's impact on mental health

Worrying levels of farm safety are being linked to poor mental health, including here in Buckinghamshire.

The study by the Farm Safety Foundation, or Yellow Wellies as they are known, is a familiar story to one Aylesbury farmer. 

Greg Masters is a cow and sheep farmer, who recognises the connection:

"Because of the mental health stresses and strains, people in agriculture cut corners. Then accidents happen and the death rate goes up.

"People are normally working on their alone a lot of the time and they get caught out and stuck and it's... it's upsetting.

"I had a bit of break down four or five years ago, through stress and worry.

"I've been better this year and last year.

"Winter time is very very hard, like it is for a lot of people, but for farmers in particular you start work in the dark and you finish in the dark and I struggle... Especially around Christmas it gets too hard sometimes."

The Farm Safety Foundation have launched their third annual Mind Your Head campaign, to raise awareness of the issues facing farmers today and the link between farm safety and mental health. 

There are a range of issues that can affect a farmers mental health and it isn't just isolation.

Recent weather has affected all farmers, including some ability to plant crops, which will eventually affect their income. 

Agricultural farmers are also facing issues with the sale price of the animals.

Greg explains:

"It's a big issue, in one way agriculture is a big gamble, we never know what we are getting. People go to work and know their hourly rate, we never know how much we are going to get for an animal.

"In October I was selling lambs for £65, that's a loss, we aren't breaking even. Now, they're selling for £120.

"And then the weather, that's upsetting everybody."

Farming continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and 84% of farmers under 40 believe mental health is the biggest problem facing farmers today. 

Greg says more needs to be done on both fronts:

"At the moment as an industry we do have to make a lot of changes for safety sake, to get us in line with construction industry. 

"Farmers are very very shy, they always keep themselves to themselves and it just bottles up and gets worse. 

"You've just got to remember, you are able to talk and you don't need to be embarrassed about it or ashamed."

Despite the worries and affects on his mental health, Greg believes farming is the best job in the world.

Those seeking more information on how to tackle poor mental health in the industry can visit the Farm Safety Foundation's website www.yellowwellies.org and social media channels, where they can access stories, advice and services and a film "The Last Word" highlighting these issues on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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