A dairy farmer, who has openly spoke about his battle with depression, is urging his fellow farmers to put themselves first before their farms.
Wayne Langford, better known as the man behind the You Only Live Once (YOLO) Farmer Blog, decided to do something about his depression on his 34th birthday in 2017.
The New Zealand dairy farmer got to the point where he had stopped making decisions and was becoming angry and irritable.
“My kids said I was no fun anymore, which was a real killer for me. After a week or so mostly in bed, I had an out-of-body experience on my 34th birthday which made me realise I was fit, healthy and had a family.”
“I got out of bed and took my family to the beach that day, sparking the idea we should challenge ourselves to do something different every day,” he explained.
That is when Wayne and his wife, Tyler, set a challenge for a year of doing one thing each day to show that they had lived that day, recording it on his YOLO blog. In doing so, changed their lives completely.
Wayne admitted that one of the hardest things is reaching out for help. He said: “I remember thinking I would be locked up and put in a straight jacket. It could not be further from the truth.”
To use a farming metaphor, Wayne says his brain had “cooked itself” like a tractor engine. “My engine needed to be cooled down and the damage repaired before it could achieve great things again.”
He added: “For two years, I felt like the lame cow in the herd holding everything back. No cow wants to be the lame cow, and while they will try and not be a straggler.”
“All it takes is a bit of treatment and love from the farmer to help them improve,” added Langford who shared his story during Dairy-Tech Mental Health Awareness seminar on Thursday, February 11th.
Normalising conversations about mental health
Stephanie Berkeley from the Farm Safety Foundation said: “Our industry is facing some very unique pressures at the moment, with COVID, Brexit and more.”
“Whilst farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crop and machinery it appears they do not have such a good track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing.”
She said it was important to start having genuine, non-judgemental conversations with people about their mental health and start normalising conversations around the subject.
“If you are worried about someone ask if they are okay and if they don’t respond ask again. It is an opportunity to open up a conversation. While it is not your job to diagnose, you can show you care by having these conversations,” she said.
Mind Your Head campaign
Next week from February 15th-19, the Farm Safety Foundation is running the fourth annual Mind Your Head campaign to raise awareness about mental health issues in agriculture.
Farm vloggers highlight the importance of mental health.