CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Karen Patterson, Professor Siobhan O'Neill, David Devine and Veronica Morris all appeared on the recent podcast.
A County Derry farmer has opened up about his personal experience with poor mental health in a special podcast designed to help rural communities stay connected during challenging times.
David Devine is President of the City of Derry Young Farmers' Club and has spoken to the podcast, commissioned by agri-food company ABP.
NI Mental Health Champion, Siobhan O'Neill and Veronica Morris, Chief Executive of the charity Rural Support, who run a helpline for famers and farming families, were also guests on the podcast.
David was keen to help others recognise the signs of poor mental health and encouraged them to ask for help.
“If I had only known what to look for. I let it go on and on until it got to a stage that it probably was nearly irreversible,” he told listeners to the podcast.
“I was dying inside. I was putting a face on it and nobody had a clue. I was able to sing and dance for an arts festival, but really didn’t want to go out of the house.
“It sounds clichéd, but I finally said, ‘I need help’. The biggest step is recognising something is not right, then take a step back and ask for help.”
Professor Siobhan O'Neill, who also lives on a farm, said it was important that the community spirit brought to the fore throughout the Covid-19 pandemic was harnessed and normalised.
“We are social animals and we’ve lost that social integration. Isolation can cause stress and mental health problems,” she said.
“Farming families are often doing multiple jobs and looking after school children. We now need to attend to our mental health and ensure that people get the help they need.
“ There are so many people within communities that can play a stronger role. We’ve seen so much of that during the pandemic. Let’s harness it.
“Farming families provide us with food. They should now be valued in a way they might not have been before.
“We appreciate our environment and outdoor spaces so hopefully farmers, as custodians of that space, are valued too.
“We’ve learnt the value of good health and the importance of caring for the vulnerable people in our community,
“We now appreciate more things that really are so important to us.”
Former BBC presenter, Karen Patterson, presented the podcast.
Veronica Morris praised David for speaking out and said her organisation, Rural Support, receives many calls from people in a similar situation.
“Despite mental health being somewhat taboo within the farming community, thankfully that is starting to change, as David has demonstrated,” she said.
“There are things that people can do to help themselves, as well as professional agencies out there that can walk with you through challenges with emotional and mental health, including Rural Support.”
Former BBC presenter Karen Patterson was commissioned by ABP to present the series of podcasts at a time when the agri-food industry would normally be meeting up at summer agricultural shows.
All episodes of 'Now We're Talking Farming' are available to watch or listen to at www.abpfoodgroup.com/ about-us/podcast/ and via the ABP Food Group YouTube channel.
If anyone is in need of support for their mental health, Rural Support can be contacted on their helpline - 0800 138 1678 – or via their website – www.ruralsupport.org.uk.
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