Stress is an important factor to be aware of in the agricultural industry. Farmers and contractors can control many elements of their daily tasks including start times, jobs to complete and processes. However, there are many elements that they cannot control such as the weather, illness, and the behaviour of others. These are all significant factors that can impact a person’s mental health.
This year, Ireland has seen unfavourable weather conditions that has led to a delay in starting silage in some parts of the country. Short spells of fine weather have led farmers and contractors to be under pressure complete numerous jobs in a small space of time. Research has shown that some stress can be positive and help performance in certain situations. This is only healthy if the stress is short-lived. Lack of sleep, panic, and ongoing worry can all have a lasting impact. In some cases, prolonged stress can lead to illnesses such as heart disease and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Everybody has mental health, just like physical health. Both are equally important and can change throughout our lives. Stress can present itself in a multitude of ways. There needs to be a greater awareness around stress and identifying the warning signs. Symptoms can vary or overlap but overall stress indicates that something needs to be changed.
Physical symptoms of stress include headaches, tiredness and musculoskeletal aches. It can also present itself through chronic fatigue, hypertension, rapid heart rate and panic attacks.
Emotional symptoms of stress are feeling overwhelmed, trapped, or frustrated. Depression, anxiety worry, fear, and feelings of powerlessness can also be signs of stress. Also, watch out for loneliness, grief and feeling like crying a lot as these too can be linked to stress.
Cognitive symptoms notice can include obsessive thinking, negative thinking, or poor short-term memory. It also presents through difficulty concentrating, black and white thinking and not being unable to see all options.
Behavioural symptoms appear in many forms including anger (at themselves or others), withdrawing from family/friends, unable to make decisions/procrastinating, and chronic complaining. Some behaviours are also compulsive such as a change in eating patterns, alcohol and caffeine consumption, gambling, and other addictions.
We urge farming families, friends and others who work in the industry of agriculture to be aware of stress and how it can impact a person. It is important to offer a person showing symptoms of stress the correct support. Some people may need to talk through their situation; however, others may need further support from professional services. Information can be found online on Mental Health Ireland (mentalhealthireland.ie) and HSA (hsa.ie/eng/Workplace_Health/) or contact the following organisations for help:
Samaritans – 116 123- www.samaritans.org
Your Mental Health – 1800 111 888 – www2.hse.ie/mental-health
Pieta House – 1800 247 247 – www.pieta.ie
For more information on farm aid, contact FRS Farm Relief Services by visiting frsfarmreliefservices.ie.