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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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‘I hated the person I had suddenly become’ – ag college lecturer shares suicide attempt story

** Please note this article contains references to suicide**

“I hated the person I had suddenly become, and it happened in a matter of weeks,” those are the words of Harper Adams University’s placement manager, Terry Pickthall, who has shared his suicide attempt story in a bid to tackle stigma.

The lecturer, who features as part of the Farm Safety Partnership’s video series, hopes to use his own experience to encourage others to talk about their mental health.

Last year, he found himself struggling to cope with “the more challenging aspects” of his role.

As spring progressed, his anxiety levels “started to become an all-consuming illness” as he could not eat or sleep properly and felt depersonalised.

“It got to the point where I was not able to fulfil any real value or role. I could not work or do anything at home. I ended up as a shell of myself, lying in bed all day, unable to do anything.”

“So, I got it into my head that I was not going to get better, and for the first time in my life, I started to think that I would be better to not be alive.”

He then found himself at a crisis point, as he explains in detail in the video and then sought professional support.

With the support of his GP, a private counsellor, Shropshire Sanctuary and colleagues at Harper Adams, Terry began a process of recovery.

He believes that while his experience has left a scar, “like an injury does, it scar will remind me that I got better”.

“I think mental health is an enormous issue that the industry [agriculture] faces at the moment. A significant proportion of people involved in it, be it farm managers or agricultural students, are experiencing challenges with their mental health.”

Advice

His advice if you are going through something is not to accept the status quo and not ignore it either. Realise that you have a problem and deal with it before it becomes too serious.

He continued: “Also, no matter how ill you get, there is a route back. We lose too many people in our industry, farmers to suicide all the time; the more we can stop people getting to that point and get them the help they need to get back to health, the better.”

“My experiences in life, which include the aspect of my personality which have led to me having mental health problems, means I get a lot out of working with people and helping them.”

“Ultimately, my job is helping students to get the most out of part of the course that is placement. I like to take time to understand them, particuarly if they are struggling with any aspects of it, because I know that has helped me,” he concluded.

Other articles on That’s Farming:

‘We still think he is going to walk through the door’ – sheep farmers talk about son’s suicide

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