Farmers told: Here's how to start life-saving conversations about suicide

Gulls following the plough on a field in Langley near Loddon.
Picture: Nick Butcher

Farmers have been offered mental health and suicide prevention advice during the annual Mind Your Head week - Credit: Nick Butcher

Norfolk farmers have been given advice on how to approach sensitive but potentially life-saving conversations about suicide, as part of an annual mental health campaign.

According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 102 suicides registered in England and Wales among people working in farming and agricultural related trades in 2019.

The annual Mind Your Head week aims to address the growing mental health pressures within the agricultural sector, where the existing challenges of rural isolation and extreme weather have been compounded by recent worries over extreme weather, Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. 

Campaign organisers at The Farm Safety Foundation have conducted research showing that 88pc of farmers under 40 now rate poor mental health as the biggest hidden problem faced by their industry, while 89pc believe that talking about the issue will remove the stigma attached to it.

However, it is equally important to consider how to approach this sensitive conversation.

Melinda Raker, patron of Norfolk-based rural mental health support charity YANA (You Are Not Alone), said: "Talking about suicide might be tough but it’s also incredibly important. But, what’s even more important is how we talk about it.

"The problem is, the less we talk about the issue in the industry, the more we alienate people experiencing crisis and the more likely they are to act on those thoughts.

"Yet, if we get the conversation wrong – by talking about suicide insensitively or without being properly informed – we can actually add to the shame and stigma that already exists. 

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"Too often we are reluctant to intervene when someone we know or work with appears to be in serious distress but please be assured that asking someone if they are feeling suicidal does not put the idea into their head. In fact, it could be the most enormous relief to them that someone has recognised their despair.

"You don’t have to be medical professional to help: It’s about showing how much you care, being compassionate, and relating to others on a basic, human level."

YANA, which operates across Norfolk, Suffolk and Worcestershire, was advised by the UK’s leading suicide prevention charity Grassroots to produce a pocket-sized information guide on its "Seven Tractor Facts to Save A Life" - encouraging people to act when concerned about someone, explaining possible warning signs and offering advice for those who might be feeling suicidal. It is available from

Last week, a wider discussion on the region's mental health challenges was held at the EDP's Open Up virtual conference, which heard that mental health services have seen a two-fold increase in demand as people cope with the impact of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

  • If you or someone you know needs help, contact Samaritans on 116 123 or contact the confidential YANA helpline on 0300 323 0400 or
Farming mental health charity YANA has published its seven "Tractor Facts"

Mental health charity YANA has published its seven "Tractor Facts" to prevent suicides in the farming industry - Credit: YANA

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