A week-long online and social media campaign aims to highlight the importance of mental health for those who work in agriculture.

Cork farmer Peter Hynes and his wife Paula are behind the #agmentalhealth campaign.  

"The reality is we lose more farmers to suicide than we do to farm accidents", said Mr Hynes. 

Research has shown that farmers are three times more likely to die by suicide than any other occupation.

Webinars, podcasts and social media postings will help promote wellness, give farmers coping skills and generally have a conversation during the campaign. Ms Hynes said it is about "normalising" the conversation around mental health and suicide.

Sitting in a field on the rolling hills overlooking Stradbally, in Co Laois, 34-year-old Andy Nolan speaks with authority on the subject. He has experienced the effects of depression and poor mental health.

"I know men aren't supposed to cry and all that because we are too hardy, but, that doesn’t work", he said.

Andy knows first-hand that bottling it up does not work.

For seven years he struggled, relationships broke down, life was dark and eventually it became too much for him to handle, he knew he could not cope. His mind began to contemplate actions, which he now says, "would not have solved anything". 

So, he picked up his mobile phone and called his parents. He sat down with his entire family and spoke. 

"I told them how I had felt, everything that had been going through my mind, I burst out in tears, which was a great help. That was a turning point for me in my life, it got better from there on in."

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Andy is keen to make the point to fellow farmers, anyone, that talking is the key.

"You have to let it out somehow or another, talk to your family and friends or your GP, they do not want to see you gone, or in bad form, it is nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of whatsoever."

Andy said he still deals with depression and he likens it to losing weight or giving up cigarettes, "you have to work at it every day". 

In an industry which can be macho, Andy is one of several voices beginning to speak out. He talks about the winter coming in, the long nights, the loneliness, having a lot of time to think.

He said when he is having a bad day, he deals with it there and then, "I realise, right Andy, you need to take yourself aside and talk to someone, say to them, 'I am having a bad day. I am feeling down about this or that' and when you do that it will be gone".

Andy reflects on life since he started dealing with the issues he was facing, "when you get over negative mental health, you realise how strong a person you actually are, you feel, 'God, I am able for anything’". 

Farmers are under increasing pressure, margins are often tight, financial pressures can at times be enormous, on farm investment means there are repayments to be met, and if prices slide, then meeting those bills can be a problem. 

The impact of weather can be huge too. The picture many people have of farmers having a simple idyllic life is far from the reality.  

Increasingly it is solitary too; rural communities can be bereft of young people. 

The meitheal of old is sadly mostly passed in many places. Contractors are brought in, the community spirit of old is not what it once was. Some farmers often remark that they don’t see anyone from one end of the week to the other. That is a solitude which can be hard to contend with, and initiatives like #agmentalhealth week, will help.

It is often said that some farmers look after their animals better than themselves. Peter Hynes said that keeping your mental health in check will stand to farmers when things get difficult. 

"By prioritising ourselves, we can put ourselves in a much stronger position when tough times come," he said.

Samaritans provides confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day, call 116 123