MENTAL health problems affect everyone differently – you won’t necessarily feel suicidal or there won’t necessarily be anything obvious to others.
That’s what Courtmacsherry farmer Harold Kingston told the audience when he took to the stage to accept his ‘Outstanding Achievement in the Farming Community’ award.
This was the first year of the award and one that Southern Star editor Con Downing said was unanimously decided by the judges.
Harold, Cork Central IFA chairman, was recognised for his bravery in speaking out about his own mental health struggles which developed in the context of the challenging weather conditions experienced by farmers this year, the workload it created and the subsequent fodder crisis.
He had been vocal in advising IFA members to seek help if their mental health was impacted by tough farming conditions, and ended up having to take his own advice.
At the awards ceremony, he advised: ‘I suggest you look out for your neighbours; neighbours looked out for me, family looked out for me, so be conscious of that. Be conscious that, if you are in trouble, there is help out there.’
He told The Southern Star in May that he ‘recognised he needed help and spoke to a supportive neighbour to lighten the mental load and also visited his doctor.’
‘The problem wasn’t necessarily the fodder crisis – I could source fodder and ration and could deal with that expense, but it was purely not being physically able to do all that needed to be done; it was putting the cattle out and having to bring them in again; it was the weather that just never cleared and not being able to get any job finished. I knew that there were people far worse off than me but I still found my situation tough, suffering from complete exhaustion,’ he said.
‘It’s like an injury and you have to look at ways of dealing with that and getting to the cause of it – in this case the workload.’
Meanwhile, this year’s Hall of Fame award winner Joe Kelly from Eyeries said the honour was something he never expected.
‘I’m overjoyed. At this stage of my life it’s something I never expected,’ said Joe who said the achievements he was most proud of was bringing rural transport to the area and improving area-based payments for sheep farmers during his time with the NHFA.
And, with no plans to retire from either farming or the community, we can expect plenty more good results from him.