Climate policies have the greatest impact on farmers’ mental health


Government policies to tackle climate change are fueling a mental health crisis among farmers in Ireland, preliminary results of a new study show.

The study, Dying to Farm: Developing a Suicide Prevention Intervention for Farmers in Ireland, published by experts from the School of Agriculture and Food Science and the School of Psychology at University College Dublin, indicates that climate-related stress contributes to suicide ideation at operational level.

The project, funded by the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention, is based on the opinions of approximately 250 dairy, beef, sheep and arable farmers (male, female, aged 20-80 years) who took part in nationwide interviews, focus groups and surveys have the last 12 months.

While the study will remain active through the end of August, the authors say most of the data was collected before the government agreed on a 2030 emissions reduction target for agriculture.

Research coordinator Alison Stapleton said: “We know from a lot of anecdotal evidence that mental health is a really big challenge for farmers, but in Ireland there hasn’t been much research on the risk of suicide in this community.

“This project aims to address this while exploring interventions to strengthen farmers’ mental health and reduce suicide rates.

“We asked farmers about their knowledge of support services, their mental health in general, whether they have ever had suicidal thoughts and specific factors that contribute to poor mental health.

“Out of a list of 30 options, our data currently identifies the top agricultural stressor as ‘government action to mitigate climate change’; followed by “concern about the future of the farm” and then “outsiders don’t understand the nature of farming”.

“‘Not having enough time to rest as a family’ and ‘limited social interaction opportunities’ were also among the top five stressors,” she said.

If you are affected by this article you can call the Samaritans toll free on 116 123, email or visit Climate policies have the greatest impact on farmers’ mental health

Fry Electronics Team

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