A serial fundraiser, TV star, Farmer of the year, mental health ambassador, Paula Hynes is some women for one woman. Just six years ago Paula started her journey in the milking game alongside her hubby Pete and has overseen the expansion of the dairy herd. Paula and Pete are the initiators of #AgMentalHealthWeek, with a very poignant message that needs to be heard right around the globe in the Agricultural sector. I recently asked Paula to share the plans for #AgMentalHealthWeek, her thoughts on how the Agri-industry is doing with mental health awareness and what she does to keep her mental health in check.
Based in Aherla Co. Cork the Hynes are now milking 180 high EBI Holstein with a few Pedigree Jersey girls. Paula says “This allows us to maximise revenue from replacement heifer sales along with sales of some high EBI breeding bulls. Expanding the dairy herd from 50 head and fast forward with the abolishment of milk quotas, today the 180 spring calving herd has an 86% six week calving rate and rears all replacement heifers on farm. Relatively new to the farming world, in comparison to some, the Hynes have really kicked some goals, namely Farmer of the Year 2017, Pete writing for the Farming Independent and starring in many TV projects just to name a few.
Ambassadors for #TackleYourFeelings campaign and raising over €56,000 for mostly mental health charities Paula & Pete are always the first ones to put their hand up to create awareness around mental health within the agri-sector. Continuing the conversation about mental health hits close to the Hynes as Pete himself had previously suffered from depression.
What is the #AgMentalHealthWeek initiative and who is involved?
#AgMentalHealthWeek stemmed from a thought myself and Pete had that unfortunately we lose more farmers to suicide than farm accidents yet there is no specific global mental health awareness week for agriculture.
The week has social media accounts on Twitter , Instagram and Facebook. We have assembled many global ambassadors all of whom have provided us with videos which are being posted during the week. We have daily tips on mental wellbeing and a large list of global support services which will be posted daily on social media. We are also running live streamed guest panel discussions on mental health in Ag, all of which will be streamed on Facebook at 7pm every evening 11th – 16th October and we truly have a top class list of guests lined up. We have also contacted so many across the globe asking them to share their message during the week using #AgMentalHealthWeek.
Why do you think it is important to raise awareness?
It is vital we focus on our mental wellbeing, the reality is there is a 50% chance a farmer will struggle with their mental health during their career. By focussing on mental wellbeing it puts us in a stronger position in times of crisis. Simple things like eating well, getting adequate sleep, taking time out, making time for social life and most importantly being honest with ourselves.
We hope to achieve a global conversation, a week where the struggles of farmers are highlighted but more importantly where solutions along with help and support can be found. If the week merely saves one farmer or points them towards a support service then it is surely worth running.
I firmly believe the Ag sector has achieved so much as regards mental health awareness. The world is full of so many people that have made a huge impact, many of whom we can gladly call friends but the reality is farmers are still struggling, lives are being lost. If I am really honest I believe we need to start with young farmers, Ag colleges, universities, these are the places which need to show young farmers the importance of focusing on their mental wellbeing and instil in these young farmers the tools to cope in times of crisis.
Do you have any practices that help you with your mental health?
We are both extremely good at focusing on our mental wellbeing but I must admit I found it really tough when I lost my dad late last December. I was so close to him and it truly broke my heart losing him. I guess in someway, maybe Pete helped me regain some focus by supporting me but strangely enough by taking me on a date a few weeks later. It got me out of my shell, away from family etc. and allowed me space to gather my thoughts and take my mind of the heartbreak for a few hours.
Funnily enough people possibly wonder why we go on date night so often, I find it a great tool in managing my mental wellbeing, an hour in Kals hair salon gives me a break from the farm but also helps me feel fab escaping the cow dung and dirty work gear. That followed by a good night out together where we chat, laugh, see a bit of the outside world is a great way to refresh the mind.
People can get involved in the week by using #AgMentalHealthWeek and sharing their message on mental health or highlighting their local support service or also by simply sharing what they do to prioritise their mental wellbeing. Likewise they can follow the week on