January 8, 2010

By MARIA HERLIHY

Thursday January 07 2010

THE harsh weather, crippling costs on the farming community and loneliness has led to the HSE South's Farm and Rural Helpline receiving 100 calls in December. In 2009, it had received 688 calls from lonely, depressed and suicidal farmers. The helpline was initially targeted at farmers and people who live in rural areas who may be feeling down, suffering from stress or depression or those who are concerned about someone. However, the type of calls been received this year has been changing.

Brenda Crowley, Mental Health Resource Officer, HSE South said: "2009 has not been an easy year for many in rural and farming communities and we have seen a significant change in the type of calls to the helpline of late. Previously, many callers cited loneliness, isolation and depression as key factors. These calls are still coming in but some callers are now also expressing concerns about the financial issues in relation to farming."

She said stress and anxiety are "huge factors" as many farmers have large loans and are experiencing difficulties in attaining grants and entitlements. In January 2009, the centre received 55 calls from farmers, this reached a peak of 60 during the incredibly bad weather in June, July and August. By September the number of calls fell to 35, but it began to worringly rise just one month later in October to 44, and just one month later, 75 calls were made by farmers.

The helpline said that 55 per cent of callers were male, and 62 per cent were single. In addition, 50 per cent of callers were living alone, and 41 per cent cited depression and suicidal thoughts as their major health problems. 40 per cent of callers said they had previously received treatment for depression.

Dave Drohan, Local Health Manager with the HSE South said that very often a lack of awareness of what services are available can be a real barrier to someone seeking help. The HSE South's Farm & Rural Stress Helpline – 1800 742 645 – was established as a practical response to help address the issue of loneliness and isolation experienced by people living in rural areas in Cork and Kerry.

The helpline is open daily from 6pm–10pm and is staffed by professionals who offer callers a listening ear, support and advice in complete confidence.

– MARIA HERLIHY

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