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HomeBeefPsychologist conducting ‘first of its kind’ farm accident survivors study
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Psychologist conducting ‘first of its kind’ farm accident survivors study

Psychologist, Michelle O’Loughlin, is recruiting for a study she is undertaking this spring on the experiences of farm accident survivors.

She is particularly interested in speaking to farmers who survived a traumatic farming accident and required lower limb amputation(s).

O’Loughlin aims to highlight the “valuable” experiences of farm accident survivors.

Stemming from that, she also hopes that findings will enhance services, supports and policies that impact farm accident survivors.

She hails from a farming background on the north-coast of Ireland and helped out on her family farm at weekends before working on smallholdings overseas.

She lived in Scotland for many years and moved back to Ireland in 2019 to begin her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, which she will complete this September.

When she moved back to Ireland from Scotland, how frequently media feature farm fatalities and accidents struck her.

This prompted her to delve deeper into this field, as she is aware of about only thirteen studies worldwide (none of which, she understands, were conducted in Europe) that look at the experience of farm accident survivors.

Farm accident survivors study

Speaking to That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, O’Loughlin – who currently works with children and adults with disabilities – said:

“There is little to no formal research about the experiences of farm accident survivors in Ireland, the UK or wider Europe. Therefore, we believe this study will be the first of its kind. Trinity College Dublin is overseeing the study.”

“Of course, growing up and helping out on a farm, you are aware of the risks and hazard. However, the familiarity shields you a bit from it too.”

“As farming is the most dangerous occupation in the western world, I assumed there would be lots of research on this topic, but how wrong I was.”

The lack of research seemed “perplexing” to her, especially when considering other comparative occupations such as the military.

“For example, both farming and the military are very dangerous occupations. They both are very male-oriented. Also, they are both closely linked with the person’s identity.”

“However, there is lots of research on one and very little research on the other. This needs to change,” she explained.


For the purpose of her study, she has issued a call out for candidates that:

  • Are male;
  • Experienced a farming accident;
  • Needed lower extremity amputation(s) after the accident;
  • Were an adult (18+) and farming for at least five years (helping at home/part-time/full-time) before the accident occurred;
  • Are in Ireland or the UK.

She must complete her research by May 9th, 2022, as this is the submission deadline for the doctoral thesis.

“They would also be happy to chat with me for 60-90 minutes over the telephone, an online video call or in-person if that suited. When I have written up the research, their identity will be anonymous.”

She currently has five participants signed up for the study and is seeking a further five.

As a psychologist, she is particularly interested in understanding more about these farmers’ identities after their accidents and limb losses.

“Five does not sound like a lot, but farm accident survivors are a relatively hidden population.”

“There are very few organisations that cater specifically for farm accident survivors. Many may be reluctant to talk hence. That is why I am casting the net far and wide for ten people in total.”

More attention, funding, education and support

O’Loughlin highlighted that farm accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, have “devastating” impacts on individuals and communities and require more attention, funding, education, and support.

She acknowledged organisations such as Embrace FARM, which do “incredible” work in the area of farm accidents and their devastating consequences.

“It would be wonderful to see Embrace FARM continue to grow and reach those affected or to see other platforms cater to the needs of those affected by farm accidents. Research is one thing that can help to make this happen,” she concluded.

More information

If a farm accident survivor with lower extremity amputation(s) would like to take part or has any questions, they can contact Michelle by email ([email protected]) or by text/phone: 00353 87054 5062.

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