The World Health Organisation(WHO) has stated that “ mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders” and view it as being an.”an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health” The WHO Constitution states that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This implies that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. It is an integral and essential component of health.
The WHO defines mental health”Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Therefore mental health is determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors
This Section or the Module will focus on common mental health challenges such as Depression, Stress and Anxiety and How To Deal with Stigma and Recovery
It’s important to promote a culture of openness and support around mental health in the farming community. Encouraging farmers to prioritise their mental health and well-being, to build social connections and networks are all crucial steps in addressing stress, anxiety and poor mental health outcomes among farmers.
Depression is a mental health challenge that involves having a low mood or losing interest and enjoyment in your work, activities and other things that you normally enjoy . It can also bring about other changes to how you think, feel or behave.
It is important to note that the symptoms you may experience can vary. Additionally ,how intense these feelings are, how long they last, and how much you are affected by them in your daily life can vary.
With what is termed as mild depression you might have low mood but nonetheless be in a position to still be able to carry on with your daily farming life and work routine.The feeling may very well be that everything feels much harder, less worthwhile and difficult to do. It all feels like a struggleIt can be understandably easy for us farmers to feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious. The following section will explore with you how struggles in farming can undermine good mental health and how to address the misplaced stigma that surround mental health challenges.about these threats to our mental health…
If you are experiencing more severe depression, you might find your day to day life on the farm or workplace significantly more difficult.
Anyone of us can have moments in times when our mood is low. We feel sad , or just pure fed up.More often than not these feelings occur and pass on in time. There is a reason behind such a low mood and when sorted life goes on.
However, it can become depression if the feelings become so bad and overwhelming that these feelings interfere with your daily life and if they last for several weeks or months.There are many signs and symptoms of depression, and everyone’s experience will vary. Key symptoms The more common symptoms may include
How you might feel such as
How you might act:
There is a lot of literature written about Farming and Stress. This section will explore the relationship between stress and mental health. Farming is a work occupation. Most farmer’s place of work is usually set around the family home,which means they are never far removed from their work environment. In these circumstances it difficult for the farmer to get away from the workload. Farming brings its own unique stressors that include familiar factors for example necessary long working hours,financial pressures, climate matters, compliance with Government regulations. At a personal level family relationships, daily social isolation, also impact in a famer’s daily work routine. Additionally,there are external events that they have little or no control over from inflationary matters, volatile climate patterns , natural disasters to international events, such as the war in Ukraine and its many impacts on commodities that farmers are dependent on such as oil and grain prices animal feed and fertilizers.
Stress can be defined as any form of change that causes physical emotional mental strain Ity is the body’s response to anything that requires immediate attention or action. Being aware of the way you respond to stress can make a significant difference to your mental health and wellbeing.
Essentially, stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event.Stress is a natural and response to challenging situations or life events, many of which have been identified in the aforementioned introduction are necessary. When stress becomes overwhelming it will affect a person’s ability to cope. It can be overwhelming and leave you feeling that you have little or no control over the situation, tired, exhausted drained and in a low mood.Stress can affect a person both physically and emotionally, and with varying intensities.
Research has shown that it can be positive as it makes a person more alert and motivates a person to perform better in certain situations. However, stress has only been found to be beneficial if it is short-lived. Excessive or prolonged stress can lead to illness such as heart disease and mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. It is also well known that many farm accidents are caused due to working under stressful situations.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health challenges around the world
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives. It is normal to experience anxiety in everyday situations. A low level of anxiety as with stress can be a useful motivating force. However, persistent and excessive anxiety can be distressing and may point towards more serious issues leading for example to depression.
What is anxiety? The word ‘anxiety’ tends to be used to describe worry, or when fear is nagging and persists over time. Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with a perceived threat or something going wrong in the future, but it can also arise from something happening right now. Unlike fear itself, which is a response to an immediate danger, anxiety is an ongoing sense of worry, sometimes without a specific cause. Anxiety happens when you become overwhelmed by fear and want to avoid situations that might make you anxious. It can be hard to break this cycle, but there are lots of positive ways to cope so it doesn’t stop you from living a full life.For many, the feelings of anxiety will pass as quickly as they came, but for others they can be prolonged and develop into anxiety disorders.
Anxiety symptoms can last for a long time, or come and go. You might find you have difficulty with day-to-day parts of your life, including:
Anxiety can make farming particularly difficult and challenging for those who experience anxiety or have been diagnosed with it . This can be quiet challenging due to feeling what has been described as very intense, frequent, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Such ongoing persistent feelings will impact and interfere with regular daily routine farming workloads..
It is important to be able to recognise the different forms of anxiety and how they can affect you, as well as adopting positive coping strategies. Anxiety happens when you become overwhelmed by fear and want to avoid situations that might make you anxious.Some of the most common signs and symptoms of anxiety include:
Some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders Generalised anxiety disorder as discussed above include
The stigma associated with mental health challenges in the farming community is complex and significant. It stems from a combination of cultural, economic, and social factors that contribute to a unique set of challenges faced by farmers which contribute to avoidance of farmers talking about their mental health challenges. Such stigma can be viewed though the following core issues impacting on farmers
Historical Stigma and Tradition: Traditionally, farming has been seen as a tough, resilient occupation where mental and physical strength are highly valued. Such a historical perspective can perpetuate the idea that admitting to mental health challenges is antithetical to the identity of a farmer.
Macho Culture: There can be a prevailing sense of machismo in farming communities, where emotional vulnerability is often viewed as a sign of weakness. This can create a reluctance to discuss or acknowledge mental health challenges and or personal struggles.
Rural Culture and Self-Reliance: Farming communities often have a strong sense of self-reliance and independence. Mental health issues can be viewed as a sign of weakness or a failure to cope with the demands of the lifestyle. This cultural norm can discourage farmers from seeking help.
Isolation and Loneliness: Farming as previously noted can be an isolating occupation, due to the long hours associated with farming practices. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and exacerbate existing mental health challenges. The lack of social interaction can also make it difficult for farmers to recognize when they or their peers are struggling.
Uncertainty and Financial Pressures Farming by its nature as previously noted tends to be highly unpredictable. The fluctuating circumstances as previously noted debts can lead to significant levels of stress and anxiety. Seeking help for mental health challenges due to such precarious circumstances may seem like another burden and one to be avoided
Lack of Access to Services: Lack of accessible mental health services can make it challenging for farmers to get the appropriate help they need at times of crises. Rural areas often have limited access to mental health resources compared to urban areas. There might be fewer mental health professionals, treatment facilities, and support groups available.
Lack of Awareness and Education: In some cases, there may be limited awareness and understanding of mental health issues within farming communities. This lack of education can lead to misconceptions and a failure to recognize when help is needed.Addressing the stigma associated with mental health in farming communities requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes:
Addressing Stigma and Mental Health Challenges
By addressing these factors, it is possible to reduce the stigma associated with mental health in farming. through the provision of:
Education and Awareness: Providing education about mental health, its prevalence, and the resources available is crucial. This can help break down misconceptions and encourage open conversations
Supportive Networks: Encourage farmers to connect and support one another and in doing so this will can help combat the isolation and loneliness
Promoting Resilience and Coping Strategies: Teaching farmers effective coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and uncertainty is important for maintaining good mental health.
Championing Mental Health Advocacy: Influential figures and farm leaders and role models, can play a significant role in reducing stigma by openly discussing mental health challenges
What steps can be taken in the topic to achieve the five ways to well-being. Simple examples of behavior suitable for farmers
Give (1-2 Steps):