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Agricultural community is urged to be more pro-active about its mental wellbeing

May 4th, 2018 5:50 PM

By Emma Connolly

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AWARD-WINNING dairy farmer Peter Hynes is an ambassador in a campaign to reduce the stigma around mental health and he’s urging the agri community to be more pro-active in protecting their emotional well-being. 

Based in Aherla, 42-year-old Peter has been open and honest about talking about his past experience of depression and now wants to help others through this Tackle Your Feelings campaign, which started first in 2016.

Peter says the emphasis in the campaign is on ‘mental well-being, and not mental health. It’s about looking after yourself before mental health becomes an issue.’

Run by Rugby Players Ireland and Zurich, other ambassadors are

Macrus Horan, player development manager, and professional rugby player Ian Keatley.

Explaining why he got involved, Peter said: ‘Globally, mental health is a huge issue in any sector, but I wanted to broaden the reach to the farming community. I’ve always been open about my own struggles with mental health when I suffered from depression 17 years ago.’

At that time, he was working long hours in construction, was suffering from a lack of sleep and quality time. 

Just married, he said: ‘Everything got on top of me; I went to see my GP who referred me to a counsellor and, over a number of months, things improved. I started to prioritise myself, I learned to talk about things with my wife Paula and share problems.’

Peter, who has enjoyed considerable success as a farmer, has been well since, but says it’s not about finding ‘a cure, but more about managing things and learning how to deal with pressures.’

In the campaign, he features in an online video along with Marcus and Ian  and says their message is: ‘Work as a team, share the pressures, don’t dwell on the past but look ahead.’

Acknowledging that quality time is essential, especially when farming, he says he always prioritises going out as a couple with Paula, taking holidays and having time with this three daughters. 

‘This spring has not been easy, but having the mechanisms to cope has helped. Positive thinking is important and knowing that good weather will come and things will improve.’

A workshop will take place at a date to be announced at Clonakilty Agricultural College, Darrara. 

Peter, who has had positive feedback from people around the world, says: ‘It’s important to teach young farmers that this is a high-pressure job dealing with everything from fodder to finances that you can learn the mechanisms to deal with it on day one rather than 20 years later.’

A Tackle Your Feelings downloadable app has also launched, which encourages individuals to improve their mental health by using sport and positive psychology principles.

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