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Health & Fitness How a desperate message from a farmer at breaking point led to this amazing response

23:15  12 february  2020
23:15  12 february  2020 Source:   dailypost.co.uk

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a person posing for the camera: Young shepherdess Ffion Hooson, 20, has been feeling the stresses and strains of running the family farm largely by herself © Ffion Hooson Young shepherdess Ffion Hooson, 20, has been feeling the stresses and strains of running the family farm largely by herself

A young shepherdess from Denbighshire has been overwhelmed by well-wishers after going viral with a tweet about the harsh reality of farming.

Ffion Hooson, 20, sparked an online debate about mental health after admitting she was "breaking inside".

For almost two years, she has run the family hill farm by herself, after her dad Huw suffered a stroke.

At times, she said, she has been crushed by the responsibility and by the unrelenting demands of work, often in grim weather.

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Ffion also has to combine her farm work with her job as a drover at St Asaph livestock market.

On Twitter, she wrote: “I’m 20-years-old and farming alone and I am constantly putting a brave hard face on... yet deep down I’m pretty much breaking inside.

“It’s the most I’ve struggled and no one really understands but I have no choice but to carry on.”

The post has been “liked” by almost 25,000 people and it prompted an outpouring of concern for Ffion’s wellbeing, with many fellow farmers offering to chat.

One said: “You are not alone. I hope you see people from all over the world are pulling for you. And that is something very special.”

Another shepherdess replied “from one woman farmer to another”. She added: “We need strong independent women like you to lead the way, so more will follow. You feel alone but you are not.”

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New FSF figures show that 85% of young farmers believe mental health is the biggest danger facing farmers today.

a woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Ffion has been cheered by the hundreds of positive responses from wellwishers © Ffion Hooson Ffion has been cheered by the hundreds of positive responses from wellwishers

Ffion was unaware of the campaign when she posted her Tweet, but was happy for it to contribute to the conversation about mental health.

“People don’t talk enough,” she said.

"I hope that, by doing this, I can get people to open up about how they are feeling.

“When I posted the Tweet, it was just one of those days when everything seemed to be going wrong.

“At this time of year, the work is harder because all the stock are inside, and I’m doing it all on my own.

“On that day, I was thinking that nothing will ever change, that it will still be exactly the same for me this time next February.”

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Ffion has an older brother but he works away. As it was always her dream to become a shepherdess, she initially leapt at the chance to assume more responsibility.

However, her father remained in hospital for four months and he is still recovering, leaving Ffion uncertain when and if he will be fit enough to return to full-time farming.

It means that, since the age of 18, she’s been left in charge of the family’s 180-acre beef and sheep farm near Denbigh, home to her cherished “Segrwyd” flock of North Country Cheviot ewes.

Making matters worse was a terrifying car accident on the A547 Abergele Straight last summer when an oncoming vehicle collided with her Land Rover, shearing off its front wheel. Ffion was uninjured but badly shaken.

a group of sheep standing on top of a grass covered field: Ffion has just begun lambing a bed-and-breakfast flock, checking up on them twice a night, and will start lambing her own flock of pedigree Cheviots later this month © Ffion Hooson Ffion has just begun lambing a bed-and-breakfast flock, checking up on them twice a night, and will start lambing her own flock of pedigree Cheviots later this month

Mum Andrea helps out when she’s not caring for her husband. So do friends, but Ffion says it is unfair to rely on them.

She added: “I didn’t expect my Tweet to produce such a response but the replies have really cheered me up.

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"I haven’t been through them all yet, but I know that a few people have offered to help on the farm, for which I am very grateful.”

Despite all the hundreds of good wishes, Ffion’s Tweet was still trolled by a vegan who posted pictures of dead farm animals.

This prompted a disappointed response from TV farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, Llanfairfechan, who was Ffion’s inspiration for choosing farming as a career.

He wrote: “When someone is down and needs an arm around her, you can guarantee that someone will want to kick them when they are down.

“It’s not about a diet, it’s about compassion towards our fellow human beings.”

An industry under pressure

Growing mental health issues in the agricultural sector is having a direct impact on farm safety, a new industry survey has concluded.

According to 84% of farmers under the age of 40, mental health is the biggest danger facing the industry today, up from 81% in 2018.

Isolation and financial uncertainty are nothing new but farmers are now facing new stresses – not just Brexit but also the rise of veganism and the threat of climate change.

The Farm Safety Foundation (FSF) believes a combination of these factors has produced an industry under immense pressure, contributing to the 83 suicides in farming and related trades in 2018.

This week the FSF launched its annual Mind Your Head campaign, which aims to raises public awareness of the industry’s grin-and-bear-it “smiling depression”.

FSF manager Stephanie Berkeley said: “Whilst farmers are often culturally ill-equipped to discuss mental health issues, one of the most effective methods in combating stigma is talking about it.

“Let’s be clear, this isn’t someone else’s responsibility, it’s down to each and every one of us to look out for our friends, colleagues, neighbours and ourselves.”

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