A SOMERSET MP hosted an event in the House of Commons to highlight mental health in agricuture earlier this week. 

Sarah Dyke, MP for Somerton and Frome, hosted the event to promote a campaign called Mind Your Head, which runs from February 12 until 16. 

A recent study by organisers of the campaign, Farm Safety Foundation, found that poor mental health among farmers and agricutural workers is of growing concern. In a sample of 450 farmers under the age of 40, respondents almost universally (95%) agreed that poor mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing the industry today.

"As the daughter and sister of farmers, this is an issue that’s dear to my heart," said Ms Dyke. 

"My dad was a brilliant musician and when life on the farm got too much for him, he’d retreat to the piano. Music was his way of dealing with stress. My brother went through a very difficult time when he was having to handle challenges caused by the Tories’ Brexit deal. His dairyman had left and he was trying to do everything himself. Looking back, I can see what a huge mental and physical toll this was taking on him. 

“So I understand how important it is for farmers and farm workers to look after their mental health and to be open to having conversations about how they’re feeling. This event is a chance for me to highlight the vital work that the Farm Safety Foundation does and to raise awareness among MPs, peers and the wider community.”

The 2024 Mind Your Head campaign will showcase what the industry is doing to address the issue, what some inspirational individuals are doing to bring awareness and, importantly, what farmers can do for themselves.

Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation, added: “We were delighted to have been invited by Sarah Dyke in advance of our seventh annual Mind Your Head campaign to meet with MPs and caseworkers and share a valuable insight into why 95% of young farmers in the UK agree that poor mental health is the biggest hidden danger facing the industry.

"We are happy to support those in power understand the needs of their constituents and help shape a plan with a focus on tackling the reasons why so many in farming communities are struggling with their mental health, as well as highlighting the importance of government investment in and improvement of education and services.”

Representatives from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Farming Community Network, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Mind, Samaritans and the DPJ Foundation attended Sarah Dyke’s parliamentary event, which received cross-party support.

Somerset County Gazette: The event at the House of Commons.

Stuart Roberts, former NFU deputy president and policy adviser to the Liberal Democrats, said: “Mental health is one of the biggest issues in farming especially at a time of such challenge for the industry. Levels of anxiety due to uncertainty and change and the isolation that so many in the farming community find themselves in mean this issue needs much greater attention from us all.

"I am delighted that Sarah has picked up this topic with such enthusiasm and the work of the Farm Safety Foundation is to be applauded.”

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, added: “I’m incredibly proud to be supporting my friend and colleague Sarah Dyke and the Farm Safety Foundation with their event in Parliament to raise awareness for farmers’ mental health.

“Many farmers live and work on their own. They often live in isolated parts of the country, working long, anti-social hours, with very little contact with other people.

“It is critically important that farmers who are struggling do not suffer in silence. Instead they need to know that support is out there and how they access it. That’s why campaigns like this are so important.”