'Losing our family farm sparked a mental health crisis'

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A new study has found poor mental health continues to be one of the biggest hidden problems facing young farmers - but a new campaign hopes to help them to open up and ask for help.

James Hosking, a former dairy farmer from Launceston in Cornwall, began to experience feelings of depression when his family farm started to struggle and he suffered family bereavements.

James he kept going, working harder than ever and ignoring the warning signs. 

James had grown up as part of a dairy farming family. Credit: Oatey Media

"Milking the cows always had to happen, regardless of whether it was Christmas Day and the Queen's speech was on or if a family member had died or was in hospital," he said.

"So whenever a a tragedy happened I would very much just throw myself into work."

A series of family bereavements left James and his father struggling to keep the farm going, with teenage James also trying to complete a college course. Eventually money just got too tight and they were forced to sell up.

"The day after we sold the cows I went out into the yard and it was silent, there suddenly wasn't that workload for me to distract myself with," he said.

"That all started to catch up with me a little bit, and then over the coming year I threw myself into various jobs but didn't quite get that same itch that the family farm had supplied me with."

James tried other jobs but realised he still loved dairy farming. Credit: Oatey Media

The path to recovery came through social media. James began to post online about how he was feeling - and found others in the farming world shared his anxiety.

"Talking about it helped me realise that something wasn't right and it helped me to find something that would keep me happier in the future," he said.

James now works as a salesman, supplying dairy farmers with the kit they need to help their farms thrive.

He is also involved in campagning for others to open up about their feelings.

"Farmers are inherently quite tough, regardless of what is going on around us we have to carry on," he said.

"I think it is a very tough industry, there's a lot of pride in your own farm and you lose a lot of pride when you feel you've let your animals down."

In 2019, there were more than 100 suicides in England and Wales in those working in farming and agricultural related trades, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The Farm Safety Foundation's new campaign is all about encouraging farmers to ask for help if they are struggling.

James now works as a salesman and campaigns for good mental health among farmers. Credit: ITV News

Stephanie Berkeley, from the Farm Safety Foundation, said: "I think the fact that farmers are hard workers is one of their strongest points. They just get on with things, they look after their livestock, their land, their machinery.

"But they put themselves quite far down that list, and they need to realise that they are the most important thing on the farm. Nothing works if they don't work."

For more information, contact the Farm Safety Foundation.

If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website.

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