Prevention tools
Tool 2

How to talk about mental health


Talking about mental health issues is a courageous and  is an important step towards maintaining emotional wellbeing for farmers, whose lives are full of unique challenges. This conversation can be especially difficult and is  core content of In this module,  you will learn how to approach this topic in a supportive and effective way.

Through eight practical tips and specific examples, we will explore how to show  understanding empathy, provide you with the opportunity to  practice active and non-judgmental listening, and offer meaningful support. We will also discuss the importance of respecting  confidentiality and the privacy, encouraging autonomy and providing useful mental health information.

By the end of this module, you will be better prepared to support other farmers who may be dealing with mental health  challenges and issues and contribute to creating an environment where they feel understood and supported. Let’s start learning how to talk about this issue in an effective and supportive way.


1. The importance of empathy

Speaking about mental health issues with other farmers or people close to you can be difficult. Empathy is key. Imagine a friend telling you that they are feeling overwhelmed by the stress of harvesting. Instead of judging, be supportive. Say something like, “I understand how hard it is. How can I help you?”.

You can bring the topic up through your own concern. “I’m worried about your…” “I’m worried when you said that…”

You can talk about your own experiences, but it’s important to remember not to “steal the conversation” and turn it about you.

It can be reassuring to the person you are talking to  share your own experiences. However, it is important  to remember  when sharing your experiences that you are comfortable to do so and to avoid  the focus on you. Ensure that the person has your full attention i.e “steal the conversation”.

When someone shares their mental health  challenges or issues, active listening is crucial. Ask open-ended questions to encourage  talk and conversation using  questions such as  “What has been worrying you lately?”. Avoid value judgements, such as “That’s no big deal” or “Nothing to be worrying about there” Show sincere interest and respect their emotional space and concerns.

Permit yourself to know that there isn’t always a “right answer” to things. At the same time you can ask  questions  about the concern or worrying situation even if you don’t know exactly what to do. You can also think about or identify someone else that can provide additional support  together with the farmer.

Instead of just saying “If you need something, let me know”, it is important to offer specific help, so that the person knows you are listening and that you care. For example, “I can look after your farm while you rest” shows commitment. Being specific makes it easier for the person to accept the support.  However, if you are making such an offer be sure that you are in a position to provide the support.

Don’t promise more than you can deliver. If you don’t have the resources for practical support, think together about the parties from which you can get this kind of support and, if necessary, help to get in touch with them. Remember, however, that recommending  external contacts must  only take place take place only with the farmer’s consent.

Caring for someone with mental health  challenges or  issues can be  personally exhausting. Learn to recognise your own limits and seek support for yourself too. Saying something like “I need a break, could you get in contact with a professional?” is valid and shows responsibility.

It is important to respect the privacy and confidentiality  of the person sharing their mental health  challenges or issues problems. Make sure they feel comfortable talking to you. You can say express something such as  “Whatever you tell me stays between us”. Respecting their confidentiality fosters an atmosphere of openness.

However, if it is a situation  that they confide in you that they  had contemplated suicide or engaged in  self-harm – it is necessary to explain to them that you cannot keep this matter confidential and that it is necessary for both f you to share this situation  and seek help from a professional.

Avoid giving unsolicited advice or simplistic solutions such as “Just be happy”. Instead, ask them how they can address their problems. For example, “What strategies have you thought of to handle this?” encourages reflection and autonomy.

Providing information about mental health can be helpful. Share  evidenced based resources from recognised international and  national organisations in this area of mental health promotion. Including  reliable websites. An example would be: “I found this European project on mental health in agriculture, would you like to have a look at it? It can be helpful if you have some literature to hand that you can share with the person.

After the initial conversation, keep in touch regularly. A simple follow-up message, such as “I was just remembering you, how was your  day or week?”, demonstrates continued interest and long-term support. If you agree with the person that you will follow up it is important to keep this commitment, so be comfortable that you are a position to do .

In the agricultural sector, where long working hours and loneliness in the field are common, informal social support plays a crucial role in the recognition of mental health problems. The farming community can provide valuable social support through community gatherings, rural pubs, farm fairs, friends and family. Sharing experiences and concerns in these settings can help identify the challenges faced by someone in the community and prevent their mental health problems from worsening. By providing a strong support network, we can contribute to better emotional well-being in agriculture.

In addition, participation in cultural activities can have a significant impact on health promotion and prevention of mental illness. These activities include music, drama, dance, reading and more. Participating in them can improve overall health, increase life satisfaction and reduce levels of anxiety and depression. They also strengthen the community, foster leadership skills and motivate people to take on new roles within their communities.

What steps can be taken in the topic to achieve the five ways to well-being.
Simple examples of behavior suitable for farmers

  • Call a farmer friend to talk about the day in the field. 
  • Participate in a local community meeting to get to know your farming neighbours.
Be Active
  • Take a walk in the countryside after work.
  • Dance to your favourite music while working in the field.
Take Notice
  • Enjoy the sunrise or sunset while working on the farm.
  • Observe the changes in nature during the seasons as you tend your crops.
Keep Learning
  • Sign up for a course in new techniques in sustainable agriculture.
  • Learn a traditional regional cooking recipe.
  • Help a neighbouring farmer with a difficult task.
  • Thank a colleague for his or her support in the field.