Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Farm Safety: Discussion

Ms Catherine Collins:

We should address the mental, physical and emotional health of farmers in the legislation and stand in their shoes. We should imagine them producing the product productively and economically for the country and ask who that affects throughout the supply chain. That needs to be examined as a whole rather than just in respect of the individual farmer.

Mental health campaigns happen specifically in the summertime, at the height of the farming season. Peter Hynes has started the new Ag Mental Health Week in Cork, which will focus on the autumn. There is also the time of year from January to May when it is considered as well. The Department should get behind that a little more, flag it and offer more supports, and have more discussion of mental health. That is the problem. People do not want to talk about it and the stigma is still there, especially in rural Ireland. From our perspective, we have found that suicide ideation goes hand in hand with grief and loss. There are mothers who just do not want to continue and who exist just because of their children. There are farmers who have had limbs amputated and have had the same circumstances leading to the addiction issues Ms Rohan mentioned earlier.

Retraining and redirection could be better examined. I can think of one person who has tried several roads he would like to go down but, because he is in his 60s, he is coming up against so many issues and he cannot continue farming. In theory, he should be able to continue farming for at least another five years, until the statutory retirement age. Small matters such as that could be adjusted and made more accessible to help with people's mental health and well-being. That is part of the process of recovery, especially for the survivor of a farm accident.