Whilst farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops and machinery, they often do not have such a great track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing.
Farmers struggling with poor physical and mental health is emerging as one of the biggest, yet unspoken challenges in the farming industry. Many farmers feel reluctant to visit their GP; they feel they do not have the time or that the farm will not be able to function without them. Since farming can be a very lonely and isolating occupation, farmers can struggle on regardless and signs and symptoms of poor health can go unnoticed by friends and family.
To help address these concerns, Farm Family Health Checks (FFHC) working in partnership with Rural Support, plan to deliver key, up to date health messages to their collective target communities, to help support individuals to protect their most important asset – themselves. There will be a series of online videos entitled “Protecting the Asset that is You” which will go viral from the 24th August on Rural Support and Northern Trust social media accounts and website; the first being ‘Care in the Sun’.
Minister Poots, who supports this health campaign and was present at the launch said, “The overall aim of the ‘Protecting the Asset that is You’ campaign is to continue to improve the health and wellbeing not just of farmers and farming families but also rural communities through crucial health messages and signposting the pathways to appropriate services when and where they are needed.
“This partnership between Rural Support and the Farm Families Health Checks Programme aims to raise awareness of various health conditions which could be prevented in the farming /rural communities.’’
The Minister launched the campaign at The Milk Hut; a brand new concept that was officially launched in July by William and Alison Chesnutt on their North Coast dairy farm. This is a great health incentive and is encouraging farm families and rural dwellers to seek out healthy options to get their calcium and vitamin D through natural sources – in this case milk that is pasteurised on farm and non-homogenized meaning the cream still rises to the top.
Christina Faulkner Farm Family Health Checks Co-ordinator said “Farmers have never been great at visiting their GP or taking care of their own health. This is why our health check van is so important as it meets with the farming community at a time and place that is familiar and convenient to them. Although the health check service has been interrupted during the Covid 19 pandemic, the staff have continued to deliver health messages in this new and innovative way encouraging our community to look after number one –themselves! The NHSCT are now putting measures in place to resume the health checks service adhering to Covid 19 guidelines ‘’
“We understand people are anxious and have been reluctant to seek help during these troubling times but it’s important that we look after our health and get things checked out. These videos will be a great help in providing people with a greater understanding and awareness of various health concerns within the farming community and encourage them to seek the appropriate support.”
The videos and podcasts will be delivered as a Focus on Health Week once a month and will highlight the following health concerns:
- August Care in the Sun
- September Smoking
- October Type 2 Diabetes
- November Healthy Heart
- December Alcohol and Substance Abuse
The Focus on Health Week will provide an opportunity for messages and information to be delivered across social media, thus allowing the individual to look at their own health and lifestyle choices and encouraging them to seek professional help if they have a worry or concern about a health issue.
Veronica Morris Chief Executive of Rural Support commented “Rural Support exists to support farmers and farm families in Northern Ireland to build resilience in terms of their farm businesses and also their personal mental and physical wellbeing. The two working together is what creates real, lasting resilience and so we are delighted to partner with Farm Family Health Checks to focus a light on areas relating to physical health over the next 5 months.”
“Given the challenging environment created by the Coronavirus pandemic it remains more important than ever to look after ourselves both physically and mentally. This partnership allows both organisations to work together on a common goal which is to improve the health and wellbeing of farmers, farm families and rural communities across the province.”
If you or someone you know would benefit from speaking to Rural Support, please ring our freephone helpline on 0800 138 1678. All calls are confidential, the helpline is available 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday (alternative support options available at all times).