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Bury St Edmunds ex-farmer opens up on mental health struggles facing rural community

A former farmer who was driven to almost committing suicide from the loneliness of his work is worried as to how the twin anxieties of Brexit and Covid 19 could be affecting mental health in agriculture.

Now a pub worker, Bury St Edmunds-based 23-year-old Dan Goodwin is promoting the Mind You Head campaign. The week-long effort run by the Farm Safety Foundation shares advice with the farming community on how to look after one's mental health.

Dan said: "It has felt like we have been bombarded with things. People were getting fed up about Brexit but then Covid came and took over, and it has been quite shocking.

Dan Goodwin, 23, has struggled with isolation.
Dan Goodwin, 23, has struggled with isolation.

"Farmers are struggling at the moment, there has been a huge loss of the social side of things, plus all the stress of Brexit has made it really hard. There is so much uncertainty."

He added: "A lot of farmers work on their own, which can be isolating enough without Covid. Now with the virus, it makes it that bit more difficult for people to connect."

The campaign, which runs from Monday to Friday of this week, has been deemed vital with the number of mental health cases being seen in the community. In 2019, 133 suicides were registered for those working in farming and agriculture in the UK.

Dan said the past year has been better for his own mental health.
Dan said the past year has been better for his own mental health.

Farm Safety Foundation data also shows 88 per cent of farmers under the age of 40 rank poor mental health as the biggest problem they face.

Common problems among farmers include PTSD, depression, isolation and loneliness.

Dan said he is now trying to make farmers 'more aware' they can seek help for any mental health issues.

"The statistics show the problem is growing and what we are facing. We are looking to make people as aware as possible. We want to help people come out of it.

Dan said farmers should not be afraid to speak up about their mental health.
Dan said farmers should not be afraid to speak up about their mental health.

Dan last spoke to the Bury Free Press in February 2020 when he disclosed how a combination of loneliness, tiredness and pressure from farming, which had been his dream job, had left him close to taking his own life. A year on he describes feeling better about his situation and has credited his support network for their help.

"I am doing a bit better from the mental health side. I know where I have to go to if I have a bad day.

"I am lucky enough to have strong connections.

"It is so important that mental health has been talked about so much," he added.

"I have learned it is important for me to figure out and feel what is my mojo moment. I have to try and get away from things to a place where I feel more relaxed. For me, when I am having a low moment I feel a need to get out and about.

"It has also helped to speak to my best friend about it."

Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation said: “Digital solutions have tremendous value, however we must not underestimate the value of talking."


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