How is mental health impacting farmers in the Midlands?

farmers mental
Experts say farmers and other men living in rural communities are the least likely to talk about any mental health issues than any other Credit: ITV News Central

Escaping to the quiet life in the countryside is a dream for a lot of people - but for many who live in rural communities, it can be a crushingly lonely and isolating experience.

The mental health toll of working and living in small communities, with little interaction with neighbours literally two or three fields away, is particularly acute among farmers.

ITV Central has spoken to two families who have experienced the deep downside of country life.

Both are linked by a reluctance to open up to others about the issues weighing them down - issues that in one case saw a young man take his own life.

One parent's story:

In 2019 & 2020, 133 people working in farming and agricultural trades took their own lives.

The family of a 22-year-old farmer from Warwickshire who took his own life on New Year's Day are now calling for more people in the countryside to speak up about their mental health and to support each other.

Andy and Lynda say they are now refusing to lock away their feelings, Andy said: "Len was a cracking lad, he had got a heart of gold.

"Unfortunately, he had had a few issues which had niggled him, but he never showed it.

"It shook the community who knew him, it's ripped our life apart, so we are actively trying to get young people communicating and we are passionate to make a difference."

Lynda added: "Everybody said if anybody, he was the last person."

Andy Gillespie's story

Andy Gillespie dreamed of farming his own land since he was a teenager. But 14 years ago, his physical health left him unable to work on his farm near Market Harborough, as he recovered from major surgery, leading to a toll on his mental health.

He said: "Started to sort of draw myself into myself and yeah, ignoring things and didn't realise at the time.

"But, you know, eventually everything just built up with certain things. And then it all came to a head and and had a bit of a breakdown."

For nearly two years, Andy tried to hide how he was feeling.

He added: "To know you've got a problem and talk about it, it's the first step. And you know that they're quite solitude people.

"They live on the farm. They've worked on the farm most their life. And admitting you've got a problem is a major thing."

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