Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Welsh charity wants an end to farmer mental health stigma

Credit: Family photo

When Emma Picton-Jones' husband Daniel took his own life in 2016, she decided much more needed to be done to tackle poor mental health in agriculture.

He'd been struggling with anxiety and depression for some time.

The agricultural industry has the highest rates of suicide amongst its workers; more than any other sector, and figures suggest one farmer takes their life in the UK every week.

Following her husband's death Emma set up the DPJ Foundation from her home in Pembrokeshire.

The charity aims to breakdown the stigma that surrounds mental health and provides support and counselling services for people in rural communities.

Emma says farmers struggle, in part, because of the isolating nature of their work.

It's a really traditional sector and very isolated. More often than not they're left behind, they're working twenty two or twenty three hour days sometimes in lambing and it's really difficult work. When I was planning the funeral I realised there was very little support available for farmers and so I really wanted to do something about that but also to make it acceptable for people to talk about it because that's something that my husband didn't do.

– Emma Picton-Jones

Just three months after Daniel died Emma ran the charity's first mental health awareness training day.

Today the Foundation is growing in reach.

In January it launched "Share the Load" - a 24-hour text and phone service. It is run by Samaritans-trained volunteers who will make sure those who want help will be linked up with a counsellor within 24 hours.

Since it launched it has helped the equivalent of one client per week.

I'm extremely proud and I'm sure that he'd be proud of what I've done in his name.

– Emma Picton-Jones

The charity has had a lottery grant for Share the Load but the rest of the money comes from fundraisers.

One of those is sheep farmer Matt Launder, 26, from Llanerfyl in Montgomeryshire.

Matt says 'for a while' he 'fell out of love with farming'.

A tough time with his business in 2018 led him to start thinking about his own mental wellbeing.

It was a tough year last year in farming, it was a tough year for me and my business with the Beast from the East. I can't say I struggled really badly with mental health last year but it's something that shocked me, for a while I fell out of love with farming, and that did just play with my mental wellbeing. I thought well if I'm feeling this way, and I regard myself as someone who's very lucky, someone else is probably feeling ten times worse so let's do away with the stigma let's make it OK and if we can let's talk about it.

– Matt Launder, Sheep Farmer

Earlier this year Matt decided to take on a mammoth challenge, all to raise funds for the DPJ Foundation.

In June he will climb nine of the UK's highest mountains; Ben Nevis, Ben Macdui and Ben Braeriach in Scotland, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and The Old Man of Coniston in England, and Snowdon and Cader Idris in Wales in just 72 hours.

Matt is training to climb nine of the UK's highest mountains.

Accompanied by his brother Dan, and brother-in-law George, he's aiming to walk around 76 miles of ascents and descents in just three days.

The group will be supported by Matt's other brother-in-law Gareth, who will be driving them some 1,300 miles between peaks over the course of the challenge.

I think the work that Emma and her team of volunteers are doing to support farmers and our rural communities is absolutely outstanding and I wanted to take on a challenge to support this worthy cause. Every £37 we raise will help fund a session so that a farmer can receive support from the DPJ Foundation, so we're hoping to raise as much as possible to fund as many sessions as we can.

– Matt Launder, Sheep Farmer

Matt's challenge begins on Thursday 13 June when he begins climbing Ben Nevis at 6pm, walking through the night.

He hopes to finish his challenge by climbing Pen y Fan at around 4pm on Sunday 16 June where he hopes supporters will join him for the final leg of his mammoth journey.