In a recent Snapchat takeover, some very valid and much-needed calls were made by Young Sheep farmer, Martin Cole. Martin hails from Co. Carlow, where he farms 314 ewes due to lamb in the coming weeks, you can read his story here.
Towards the end of a very informative takeover, which began in the very early hours of the morning, he started to voice his opinion on a few topics. He had previously asked whether or not he could, to which I instantly replied yes, though little did I know how inspirational this young man was going to be.
He brought up the ever-taboo topic that is mental health. Sure, it is discussed a lot more than it was decades ago, but the fact is, people and farmers are still suffering. Martin made the emotional plea to farmers to get the help the needed, whilst continuously stressing that “Its ok to not be ok”.
Farming and life in rural Ireland can be a very lonely place, especially for those in their later years who cannot get out and about as much. In Ireland, especially in the male portion of the population, there is a sort of an unspoken agreement to not voice problems and bottle it up. I personally, have seen it time and time again, whilst I have also seen it take many lives in the process.
Depression is without a doubt one of the toughest, loneliest times in a person’s life. I should know, having suffered myself from depression in the past, that once you get into that ‘funk’ it is very difficult to get out of it, though it is possible. In reality, the only person stopping you from getting out of that groove is you, the only person that can make something happen for you is you. Everybody has felt the same feelings you now feel at one time or another, it's not just you. Depression can strike even the most unlikely candidates, those who may seem strong-willed and confident people, as we read in the news on a way to regular basis.
People can continue to tell you that you need help, but it is no use unless you admit that you need it too. Every person has the power to do and achieve anything they want to, you just need the self-belief. Life can be a tough place and farming can be especially lonely, but even telling that one person your not ok is a giant leap in the right direction. Let me pose you these questions, what would your animals do without you? What would happen them and the lands you worked so hard to keep? There are means of help out there, so why not make use of them.
A report by the HSE last September found that men aged between 45 and 54 are most likely to die from suicide, which is the age demographic of the majority of farmers in this country. In 2016, according to the Central Statistics Office, 14 out of every 100,000 people committed suicide in 2016, which is startling. For those of us who know a candidate, be it a man or woman who lives alone and in the midst of rural Ireland, that is suffering in silence, you can help. Even an occasional visit can mean the world to someone, or even checking up by phone on a regular basis.
There is is a perception amongst the Irish population, where it is seen as a society gun of weakness to admit the needing help. The reality is, that it takes only the strongest to admit to and face their problems. One should not be embarrassed at seeking help, but be proud, as you like many others are simply looking to improve yourself.
It is time now for us farmers to start looking after ourselves and helping those around us who are not ok. Let us follow the path set by Peter and Paula Hynes and much more alike and speak up. It’s time to answer Martin’s call, too many good ones have been left behind.
You can watch Martin’s Snapchat takeover, which is in two parts, below.