Last summer, Daniel Picton-Jones took his own life. He was an agricultural contractor with a wife and young family. While still coming to terms with his death, his widow Emma decided she had to find something positive in the tragedy. So she started the DPJ Foundation, specifically aimed at supporting people’s mental health in rural communities.
The risk of suicide for men working in the agricultural industry is almost twice as high as average, according to the Office for National Statistics, with stress, anxiety and isolation all contributing factors.
Emma told ITV News she knew her husband had suffered from mental health problems for a number of years and he had sought help in the past, but found counselling wasn’t for him.
I decided very early on that we needed to try and help other people in his situation. I hated the thought of anybody having to go through what myself and my children have gone through. I hated the thought of anyone having to have that conversation. In my mind if I could try and stop someone having to have that conversation by supporting those people, then that for me is a job well done in Daniel’s memory - and the foundation was really born from there.
Emma says she knew she would never have got her father or grandfather, both of whom were farmers, to a support group. Instead, she used money donated at Daniel’s funeral to fund mental health awareness training for 38 people who worked in the agricultural community, including vets, union representatives and others who have contact with farmers on a daily basis. That training included spotting the signs of anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health illness so they can point people in the right direction to get support.
At first it shocked me to find out that men in agriculture carry one of the highest rates of suicide, and then actually I started thinking about it more and it’s not a shock really. You look at the stress and the pressure that they're under on a daily basis and it's quite understandable why these men are choosing that option. So what we want to look at really is how we can ease isolation in that community and kind of really look at giving men in that community the support that they need.
In the first few months of the foundation, around £12,000 had been donated, helping them to do more work in the community.
The next step of that is providing talking therapy sessions, through which people can be referred to counselling funded by the foundation.
To date, the charity has raised around £25,000. Emma says that while it’s difficult to gauge how many people it has helped, she’s had people contact her on social media opening up about their mental health and how they have been inspired to seek help.
I like to think that we’ve let people know that it’s okay to not be okay, and let people know it’s okay to have a mental health problem and the support is there if you need it. It’s really hard to put the last year into words. It was understandably the most harrowing and difficult time of my entire life, but it’s also been the most exciting and exhilarating time because I finally feel that i’m doing something worthwhile. And I feel like i’m doing something positive for him. And whereas I always felt I wasn’t able to help him before, I feel like I’m perhaps trying to help him now, and I’m helping him through his memory. For me it’s a positive thing, for me to be able to go and do something positive and show my children something positive as well.
Emma also hopes the work the foundation does will help her children understand mental health issues more and learn to talk about them.
They need to be able to reflect on their dad in a positive way. I’m hoping through the work of the foundation that the children will grow up having a better understanding of why he did what he did, because it’s a very difficult thing to get your head around and understand - it took me a while to get my head around and understand it. So if I can give them the good steps to understand mental health and how to have good mental health as well, then that for me is the most important thing.
Watch Megan Boot's report:
If you or someone you know wants to talk about mental health issues, here are some helpful numbers:
Mind Cymru - 0300 123 3393
Samaritans - 116 123
Mental Health Helpline Wales - 0800 132737