IFA has been working with Pieta House since 2011 to provide information and support to farmers and their families through the ‘Mind Our Farm Families’ phone line and counselling service.
The 1890 130 022 phone line puts farmers who are feeling suicidal, or their families, in direct contact with a Pieta House trained therapist who can listen and will make an appointment in one of their nine centres, if needed. The therapist will provide a compassionate, solution focussed, one-to-one counselling service completely free of charge. The ‘Mind Our Farm Families’ phone line provides support not just to the person who is feeling suicidal but to concerned family members or friends.
IFA Farm Family Chairperson Maura Canning said, “We want to make sure that farmers and their families have an outlet to talk – for a lot people just talking, sharing their pain is almost like a weight being lifted from their shoulders. We know that rural populations are more at risk of suicide than urban communities and the rate tends to escalate with levels of rural remoteness. An estimated 13% of those who die from suicide are from an agricultural background. Internationally, men have been shown to be three times more likely to commit suicide than women – in Ireland, that figure rises to four-times more likely.
“About 70% of the people who come to Pieta House have no history of mental illness; they are simply reacting to life events. For farm families, economic difficulties, trying to cope with increased regulation, increased price volatility and falling incomes, are very challenging. These issues have been shown to be particularly challenging for male farmers who identify their masculinity with providing for their families.”
Maura Canning encouraged anybody with a concern about a family member or friend to reach out. She said, “The most common signs that someone may be in distress are that they are withdrawing from social situations, not answering their phone or accepting visitors, noticeable deterioration in the condition of the farm or the care of animals, possibly increased use of alcohol or drugs as well as behavioural changes such as emotional outbursts, changes in sleep or loss of appetite. It is often the use of language that can be the most telling sign, phrases such as ‘my family would be better off without me’ or ‘I see no light at the end of the tunnel’”.
The Mind Our Farm Families phone line 1890 130 022 is accessible Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. Outside of these hours The Samaritans on 116 123 and Console on 1800 247 247 provide 24 hour support. Console also provides a support service for families bereaved by suicide.