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Increasing pressures of work raise risk of suicide

By Staff Reporter

Published 24/08/2015

The full extent of the pressures farming families who form the backbone of Northern Ireland are under is evident in the shock figures we publish today.

Yet this is by no means a new problem.

"People living in rural areas tend to come from a culture of self-sufficiency and there is a reluctance to seek outside help."

That was the conclusion of a report on the key issues impacting on the wellbeing of people in rural communities five years ago.

Written by Dr Lesley-Anne Black for the Department of Agriculture and Regional Development, it said starkly: "Suicide affects more males than females, and farmers are consistently considered to be a high-risk group."

Part of the reason is that the stigma associated with mental "problems" is arguably more acute in rural areas "where everybody knows everybody".

A booklet produced by the Ulster Farmers' Union, called The Healthy Farmers Guide, said "busy working schedules often mean that farmers don't have the time to think about their health".

It also argued that through mechanisation and modernisation, farmers today probably walk less, carry less and operate machinery more than their fathers and forefathers.

The Public Health Agency which runs direct health checks at agricultural shows said: "The farming community is particularly susceptible to poor health and wellbeing, partly driven by the wide demands impacting on farmers across a range of social and economic factors.

"They often work long and anti-social hours which can lead to social isolation and often difficulty accessing traditional healthcare services."

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