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Future of Farming ambassador, Peter Hynes, speaks bravely about his own struggles with mental health and his fantastic work in setting up Ag Mental Health Week. 

‘In a year where we are Future of Farming ambassadors for the ICBF, it is in many ways so fitting that myself and Paula came up with Ag Mental Health week. We have been quiet on the Future of Farming front lately, due to AgMentalHealthWeek taking so many hours in a short space of time to pull together. The reality is, without prioritising our mental health it greatly affects the future of farming.

As you sit here reading this today tragically four farmers will be lost to suicide around the world. That is four fellow farmers that were in the darkest place someone could ever be, yet they felt they couldn’t reach out for help, felt it wasn’t okay to talk about suicide. That is a stigma we have failed as an industry to break down. Before you read any further just stop and think about those four farmers.

The harsh reality is if we don’t stand together as a global Ag industry and smash down the walls around that stigma by the time Ag Mental Health Week 2021 comes around, we will have lost a further 1400 farmers to suicide. I don’t for one second believe Ag Mental Health Week can breakdown that stigma, but I do believe by standing together as one we can achieve so much more. As I have watched Ag Mental Health Week grow into what some have called a global movement, I have been humbled by the support we have received from companies in the sector. Although I must admit I was saddened to see some companies refusing to support the cause, it is a shameful reflection on some in our industry. I’ve been at rock bottom myself and I’m one of the lucky ones who has clawed their way back up. This is an achievement that I will be forever grateful to my wife Paula (pictured) for helping me achieve, for standing alongside me when I couldn’t stand up on my own.

A mate, whom I have never met, rang me on Friday night, we chatted and as the conversation moved on he eventually said to me “Pete if you didn’t answer my direct message three years ago, I wouldn’t be here today and I’ll never forget you for it mate”. Now I for one don’t think I need any credit for that, he’s a fighter, a real success story and I’m so proud of him. The point I am making is that maybe we could all stand together and answer that direct message in a way that we let every farmer across the world know it is okay to reach out for help. I know so many around the world who do amazing work on mental health in agriculture, people who have become great friends. Whilst on some days we fight for our own survival we stand as one on many more for the survival of others, people like Lesley Kelly, Emma Picton Jones, Mary O Brien, Liz Hoggarth, Michael Oakes, Will Evans and so many more.

God gave me two feet and I stand up on them with a great wife and family. We do the best we can to support our fellow farmers but one of the best parts about social media is making so many friends who stand alongside us.

Paula and I always said if AgMentalHealthWeek merely saved one life, it was a week worth running. Its humbling to see it grow but having the support of so many farmers around the world has inspired us to take it further, to take it up a level. With a 12 month lead it can grow so much more as we evolve it, surrounding it with great people.

The future of farming must remain bright but within that brightness prioritising farmers mental wellbeing must be a priority, its something each and everyone of us can do on a daily basis. Simply by prioritising ourselves, taking time out, eating well, getting adequate sleep, being honest with ourselves in how we are feeling we can prime ourselves to be in a much stronger place when times of stress arrive. But also, as an industry we must educate and highlight the importance of mental wellbeing to farmers because make no mistake times of stress do arrive on farms. As I said the other day in an article I wrote, there is so much talk about sustainable farming so its about time we included sustainable living in that conversation.’

If you find yourself needing to chat to someone about your mental health. You can call Samaritans free, day or night, 365 days a year on 116 123