You don’t expect to receive a phone call telling you that one of your best friends has taken his own life. But in January 2016, I did.
Like you’d expect, the news rocked me, and I didn’t know what to say or how to react, I felt helpless.
Joe was one of my closest friends at Askham Bryan College. We got on really well and his family were good to me while my own were abroad. But like all friendships, we drifted apart. We went to different places for our degree and admittedly we were poor at keeping in touch, although at least once or twice a year we’d meet for a good catch up. Everyone does it, right?
But I never expected for what happened to…happen.
Mental Health in agriculture
I began to consider the facts regarding mental health in agriculture. What struck me was how common it was for suicide to occur in this industry when approximately one farmer a week takes his own life in the UK. The leading cause of death in UK for 20-34 year-olds is suicide (1,659 lives lost in 2016) – 75% of those that died were male. Three guys in my year group at school took their own life, and the reason Joe took his own life was because of depression. He didn’t feel able to talk about what he was struggling with. In 2017, that just isn’t right.
So I decided to start the ball rolling. When I returned to Nottingham University after a placement year, I felt that I had a real opportunity to tell people about this massive crisis in mental health, especially in men. I presented my own personal experience and some of the mental health statistics to my year group alongside a welfare officer. Following the presentation, I gave the opportunity for those who listened to sign a petition. This was a petition to our agricultural lecturers urging them to add mental health/ suicide awareness training to our curriculum.
After the first talk went down so well with everyone signing the petition, I presented it to the first and second year agriculture students, who again signed it. I then had a meeting with agriculture lecturers on to see how we can add some suicide awareness/mental health workshop and training into the curriculum, with the backing of students.
Now after several articles in the farming press my petition has reached over 3,700 signatures and counting. I’ve also received emails from colleges to speak about this issue and questions have been asked about how we can educate the next generation of farmers about good mental health. The amount of emails from farmers supporting this campaign has been so encouraging. I’m not a mental health professional and quite frankly more research is needed in this area but it’s quite clear that doing nothing isn’t an option.
Case Study: University of Nottingham
Since my campaign at The University of Nottingham the agriculture lecturers have been proactive. They have committed to an interactive session run by a trained nurse about mental health and awareness for a two year period. In addition, a guest lecturer will come in to speak about mental health specifically in agriculture to increase awareness. My hope is that will be the catalyst to change our attitudes and culture surrounding mental health in agriculture.
How can you get involved?
- Sign and share the petition
- Speak openly with people about mental health issues
- Get in contact if you would like to get involved with moving this campaign forward in your local area
Twitter – @JDFielder
Email – Jerome.firstname.lastname@example.org