More than 9,000 calls made to Console helpline for farmers since late 2012

Suicide had been attempted in more than half of cases

Caoimhe Cummins from Leixlip at the Console Celebration of Light in  Maynooth last month. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

Caoimhe Cummins from Leixlip at the Console Celebration of Light in Maynooth last month. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 01:00

A helpline for farmers and rural dwellers under stress has seen a big

increase in callers since last spring and more than half of those needing help said they had attempted suicide in the past.

The 24-hour helpline run by suicide prevention charity Console on behalf of the Health Service Executive received 9,244 calls between September 2012, when Console began to operate the line, and last November.

Figures are not yet available for December but Console chief executive Paul Kelly said the helpline was extremely busy at the end of the year.

“I know that the helpline was particularly busy during the Christmas period, especially New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day,” he said.

Some 893 people called the helpline in November.

Mr Kelly said the helpline received 133 calls in September 2012 but last March, when the fodder crisis began in earnest, some 644 people called the helpline. In May, the number of calls increased to 998, and numbers continued to remain high.

“At the time of the fodder crisis the type of calls we were getting were about farmers struggling, trying to look after their animals and get financial support from the banks, which was often being declined,” he said.

“The stress of that, combined with the sense of feeling isolated from the community, left many of them feeling unable to cope.”

Mr Kelly said this sense of isolation and loneliness was a major factor for farmers contacting the helpline, particularly single farmers.

“There’s also a heightened anxiety for their own personal safety where people live in very remote areas. A lot of the cohesion that was there is gone, with post offices and Garda stations closed and the drink-driving law, which has put them off going down to the local pub to link in with their friends.”

He said farmers were very private people, “so for them to come to a helpline like this takes great courage. But the good news is that the word is getting out about the service.”

Some 52 per cent of callers said they or the person they were calling about had attempted suicide in the past. A further 15 per cent of calls involved someone who had attempted suicide in the past six months. And 52 per cent of calls involved a person who had attempted self-harm on numerous occasions, while 16 per cent had tried to harm themselves in the past six months. Mr Kelly said more than half of callers were women and many were calling on behalf of a husband, son or brother.

Farm and rural stress helpline: 1800 742 645

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