Chris Surgenor from Co. Down worked as a farmer in Essex, where he was happy until he became ill with depression. He shared his story with Yellow Wellies, a farm safety foundation for farmers in the UK.
They offer support and advice to people who suffer from accidents or are trying to cope with life-altering incidents that occurred while working on the farm.
The Kilkeel farmer had been struggling to work sustainably in Northern Ireland, taking on numerous jobs to stay afloat, when he discovered a job vacancy in Essex. He enjoyed the work there, had a girlfriend and for four years, he was happy.
The Co. Down man had survived leukaemia as a teenager, but it had left him in a low mood for a long period. Chris was also very close to his family and friends back home, and he missed them dearly.
After four years in Essex, the rural isolation became a lot for Chris to bear as he would over-think situations and he would worry about his family at home, especially his grandmother, who he was very close with, and her deteriorating health.
Over time, he felt that he had nobody he could talk to about his isolation, he didn’t have a big social circle in Essex. His declining mental health eventually distanced him from his girlfriend and they eventually broke up. His dog had died and the isolation became overbearing. He was on a downward spiral.
On a chance encounter with his boss, Chris was able to discuss how he was feeling. His employer was understanding and brought him to the hospital as Chris hadn’t registered with a GP in the UK.
He was prescribed antidepressants and put on a waiting list; he felt that the antidepressants proved ineffective.
Chris started to drink alone in the evenings after working 10-hour working days and his anxiety became so strong that he got to a point where he had a rope in his hand, ready to end it all.
He knew that this would be heartbreaking for his family and this made him think twice about his decision. Thankfully, he put down the rope and went to bed.
This became a turning point and Chris decided that he wanted to find help and get sorted out. His friend Paddy visited from Ireland and convinced Chris to buy a new dog, who he now loves.
Chris said, “I thought mental health support was only for those in cities and I didn’t want to speak to them as they wouldn’t understand."
He said that NHS waiting times are "slow" but he needed some support and someone to talk to in those 6 weeks while I waited for his assessment.
"I honestly never knew that there is help available for farmers and their loved ones. Now that I do know, I want to do something to help raise awareness of this help so that I can maybe help someone too.”
“I’ve learned that pain, tough times and even depression, are time-limited. I’ve fought cancer and won. No matter how horrible things have been in my life at times, things have always gotten better."
"So if you’re experiencing a difficult time, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Things will get better. Hold on for just one more day. I promise things will get better,” he concluded.
Image source: Yellow Wellies \ Website