Data published on Friday by the Office of National Statistics show that male agricultural workers have a suicide rate second only to low-skilled labourers. More than 60 men farming in England take their own lives every year.
Richard Huffer farms in South Shropshire and is Shropshire Councillor for the ward of Clee.
“To learn that agriculture has one of the highest suicide rates in England will come as no surprise for anyone in the farming community. We have all lost friends and colleagues in shocking circumstances.
“Farming is a tough job. Many farmers work in isolation. They are under huge pressures, especially the smaller farmers in places like south Shropshire.
“It gets harder and harder to make ends meet. Fluctuating milk and livestock prices, delayed single farm payments, testing for TB and problems like avian flu all put farmers under considerable stress.
“People would be shocked if they knew how many farmers are on anti-depressant medication and in need of help. Farmers don’t talk about depression much. They are too busy working 24/7 and trying to keep afloat. They too often ignore their own health needs.
“There is help available. I urge farmers to seek advice from their GPs or a helpline before things get bad.”
Farmers needing advice or someone to talk to about their problems can contact the Farmers Support Network on 03000 111 999.
Richard Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Clee. firstname.lastname@example.org. 01584 891215.
In the five years 2011-2016, 325 men and 14 women aged 20 to 64 and employed in skilled agricultural and related trades committed suicide. This gives a standardised mortality rate (SMR, see below) of 169 for men. Only elementary trades and related occupations have a higher SMR. Skilled construction and building trades have a male SMR of 163.
The SMR for women in agriculture in 130, lower than several occupations. Although this is higher than 100, the numbers involved are too small to draw conclusions about whether the suicide rate for female farmers is significantly higher than average.
The standardised mortality ratio (SMR) is a common measure of mortality. When the value is greater than 100, the risk of suicide is higher than that in the broader population of England. When the value is less than 100, the risk of suicide is lower than that in the broader population.