A young farmer is throwing herself behind a vital new campaign to highlight mental health issues facing the tight-knit farming community across Harborough.
Vickie Gillespie, 31, is being inspired to back the ‘Mind Your Head’ mission after both she and her dad Andy, 55, have had to fight their own tough challenges over the years.
Now she is bravely speaking out to support and amplify the Farm Safety Foundation’s bold UK-wide initiative urging farmers to seek help rather than suffer in silence.
Vickie, who helps her hard-working dad run a thriving livestock farm near Market Harborough, said: “This is very important to me – and it’s very personal.
“My dad has struggled with his mental health in the past.
“And I have suffered anxiety and depression as well – so this is very close to home.
“So I’m determined to get this huge message out there – and if we can help just one person it will have all been worthwhile.”
The Farm Safety Foundation, also dubbed the ‘Yellow Wellies’, has revealed there were 133 suicides within the farming industry in England, Wales and Scotland last year alone.
And a new study shows that an incredible 88 per cent of farmers aged under 40 rank poor mental health as their biggest hidden problem.
“It’s never been easy working in farming because it’s quite solitary and isolating.
“And, of course, that’s been compounded over the last year or so by the Covid pandemic and the lockdowns,” said Vickie, who was a beautician before joining her dad to run their busy farm.
“Farmers used to see each other and have a chat at the local market every week – or they’d catch up over a pint at the pub.
“But they’ve not been able to do that for many months.
“Just about every one of us has been suffering to some extent or other as we’ve all been locked down and stopped from going out to see our families and friends.
“The whole issue of mental health really has become so much spoken about.
“People are realising that it’s OK not to be OK as we’ve all become so much more aware of this.
“There shouldn’t be any sort of stigma attached to mental health issues.
“We’re a pretty close-knit community in farming in Harborough and we try to support each other,” said Vickie, who farms cattle, sheep and pigs.
“But sometimes we need to reach out to talk to and confide in someone we don’t know about the struggles we are experiencing.
“Dad and I are shy, private people – we don’t like seeking the limelight or speaking out publicly.
“But our mental health is so crucial, so critical, that the bigger the platform we can get to promote and showcase this new campaign the better,” said Vickie, a former Robert Smyth Academy student.
“My dad’s experiences really opened my eyes and motivated me to support the Yellow Wellies’ scheme.
“So many people have told us that they are fully behind us every step of the way.
“And they’ve admitted that they have had their own struggles too over the years.
“So I would simply say to anyone in farming – or anywhere else – that if you are finding life difficult don’t suffer on your own.
“Reach out and seek help and support, please talk to someone and I’m sure you will feel so much better.”
Vickie highlights the campaign on her Instagram account called faketannedfarmer: https://www.instagram.com/faketannedfarmer/And you can find out more about the Yellow Wellies project here: https://www.mindyourhead.org.uk/events/yellowwellies