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NFU urges industry to “open up” about mental health

“We need to start treating mental wellbeing as we would a physical injury,” says union’s vice president and Farm Safety Partnership chair

NFU urges industry to “open up” about mental health

Stuart Roberts

Photo: NFU

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The NFU is urging the farming industry to reverse the stigma around mental health as statistics released by the Health and Safety Executive identified stress, depression and anxiety as some of the main causes of work-related ill health.

The report outlined that the overall illness rate for agricultural workers is 46 per cent higher than the industry average, and highlighted that stress, depression and anxiety are significant causes of ill health alongside musculoskeletal disorders and lung disease.

The union’s Farm Safety Partnership, which aims to increase safety awareness across the agricultural sector, has set a target of reducing fatalities on farm. To achieve this its chairman, and NFU vice president, Stuart Roberts said the industry needs to “open up” and start talking about mental health.

“We all know that agriculture has a poor track record when it comes to physical injuries in the workplace, and the FSP is working with the industry to reverse this,” he said. “But what we have often overlooked is our mental wellbeing.

“British farmers and growers are incredibly passionate about the role they have in producing safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation. Yet the environment they work in can often leave them feeling isolated, and the stress that comes with financial pressures, outbreaks of disease, volatile weather, as well as Brexit uncertainties, can leave farmers feeling vulnerable.

“We need to start treating mental wellbeing as we would a physical injury. If you’ve pulled a muscle you rest it, if you have back pain you go and see a doctor. But first we must be able to recognise when there is a problem and we must be able to talk about it."

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