President's Blog - 19 July 2018

As the bad weather of the winter turns into a dangerously dry summer, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick reflects on the importance of farmers and crofters looking after their mental health, even when things get tough.

The end of last year and beginning of this year were a difficult time for farmers, both financially and mentally. Many struggled for grass, grain and fodder, whilst a great many lost stock during the extremely challenging winter and spring.

Financial burdens and casualties have an effect on our mental health and wellbeing, whether we like to admit it or not. And when it does, farmers and crofters need to know that there are places they can go to seek help.

Farming and crofting can be extremely isolated and lonely professions, with long stints of speaking to absolutely no one other than the dog or the occasional vet (although in my experience the less the latter is seen, the better). So, it is quite easy to see how the mental wellbeing of someone in our industry could be fragile.

Stress is also a serious factor in a farmer or crofters wellbeing and is something that we need to talk more about. Running your own business is enough of a stress, but when you add in the volatile markets and a reliance on so many things which are out your control (weather, market trends and prices) it is always going to test you, no matter who you are.

Mental wellbeing is an important part of farm health and safety, which is why it is part of this year’s Farm Safety Week campaign.
Farm Safety Week runs 16 to 20 July and is supported by various organisations including the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland.

Farm Safety Partnership Scotland members are NFU Scotland, NFU Mutual, HSE and Scottish Government.

The important advice I would like to give to any farmer or crofter who is feeling stressed, depressed, suicidal, or just downright low, is to contact the farming charity RSABI.

RSABI are a charity which specialise in helping those who are suffering hardships in Scottish agriculture, both financial and mental, and should be the first place for any farmer or crofter to go if they start to feel the walls closing in.

Our Board of Directors had a presentation from RSABI at our most recent meeting and it was interesting to see how much RSABI can actually do for farmers in need, and how few farmers know the extent of the service. We need to be encouraging farmers to use this invaluable service.

Our industry is one which has a problem with communicating about mental health and that needs to change. We all need to learn to open up when times are tough and to maybe lend an ear to our neighbour as well. It is easy to ask ‘how are you’ of someone you haven’t seen in a wee while.

Author: Andrew McCornick

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About The Author

Andrew McCornick

Andrew, who is married with three sons and a daughter, was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Wigtown. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230+ ha unit with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. Andrew's sons farm a nearby tenanted unit which frequently provides replacement breeding stock for Barnbackle. For as long as Andrew can remember, he has been a member of the Union, and got more involved when the consultation for Nithsdale NVZ came out. From there he went onto become vice chairman of the Dumfries branch, and then onto his previous role of Regional Board Chairman for Dumfries and Galloway. He also sat on the LFASS committee. Andrew was elected Vice President in February 2015.

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