Minister Martin Heydon visit to SHHP
Martin Heydon, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine pictured (second from left) on a visit to the School of Health and Human Performance to learn about the FarMHealth study into farmers mental ill health help seeking behaviours. Also pictured from left to right are Dr John McNamara (Teagasc), Dr Siobhán O'Connor, Dr Anna Donnla O'Hagan, Dr Sinead O'Keeffe and Professor Timo Gans, Associate Dean of Research at the Faculty of Science and Health

Irish farmers' mental health literacy and help-seeking behaviour explored in FarMHealth study

Research has found that a lack of awareness of the symptoms of mental ill health, social stigma, self-stigmatisation, rural masculine norms and poor social support are barriers that prevent farmers from seeking help from mental health services

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development, Martin Heydon T.D., visited the Dublin City University (DCU) School of Health and Human Performance (SHHP) today for a presentation on ‘Skills for Resilience’, an educational intervention which improves farmers’ knowledge of their mental health and how to seek help while addressing the stigma against doing so.

The intervention forms part of the overall FarMHealth project which was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Reflecting on the findings, Minister Heydon said: 

“Awareness around the importance of positive mental health is growing across society and farmers are not exempt. FarMHealth has highlighted that many farmers lack the knowledge to recognise poor mental health and how to seek the appropriate supports. There is also a reluctance among farmers to seek professional help when they are struggling."

“It is encouraging to see how the once-off ‘Skills for Resilience’ educational programme, when included in discussion groups, can improve farmers knowledge of mental wellbeing and help remove the stigma around discussing mental health and seeking help.”

Speaking about the FarMHealth project, Dr Siobhán O’Connor who is the lead investigator on the project said: 

“An important part of taking care of your mental health is knowing when, where and how to seek help when necessary; we call this mental health literacy. In our research, we found that farmers deal with a massive amount of adversity in their daily lives and want support. We found that many farmers would seek mental healthcare if it was tailored for farmers, if there wasn’t a stigma against it, and they knew how to access services”.

Dr Anna Donnla O’Hagan, co-lead investigator on the project said: 

“This initiative was created in collaboration with the Irish farming community to increase farmers’ mental health literacy and empower them to get help when they need it.”

The research involved 72 Irish farmers from across the country participating in facilitated discussions on resilience, mental health and healthcare as part of their regular Teagasc-led discussion groups. After participating in this discussion, farmers reported increased knowledge of mental health supports and how to access them, greater intentions to seek help if struggling, increased confidence in seeking mental health care, and greater comfort in discussing their mental health.

Dr Anna Donnla O’Hagan added:

“Farmers told us that even this short discussion on resilience that broached the topic of mental health at a discussion group, done in a way that they could relate to, made a big difference in addressing the stigma around mental health.”

Dr John McNamara who is the Teagasc Health and Safety Specialist said:

“The intervention addresses the stigma around seeking help and equips farmers with coping skills. The research shows that when a farmer-centric approach is used, farmers can both benefit from, and enjoy mental health skills training”.

For more information, visit the FarMHealth website at to find information videos on how to recognise the signs of poor mental health, how to be resilient, and how to access support. There are also real-life stories from farmers describing their own mental health challenges and how they sought help.

 The FarMHealth project was funded (€210,569) by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under its 2021 Thematic Research Call.

 The research team for the FarmHealth project included: Dr. Siobhan O’Connor; Dr. Anna Donnla O’Hagan; Dr. Joseph Firnhaber, Ms. Sandra Malone and Dr. Sinead O’Keeffe, School of Health & Human Performance, Dublin City University along with Dr. John McNamara of Teagasc. The team would like to sincerely thank all those who participated in the research.