Emma Picton-Jones, a farmer’s wife from Pembrokeshire, South Wales, woke up one day to find her husband missing. He had suffered with mental health issues for many years and subsequently took his own life earlier this year.
Suicide is the biggest killer of British men under the age of 50, especially in Welsh farming and rural communities, where the number rose by 23% in recent years. This is blamed on the increasing pressure put on farmers by today’s agricultural industry. Struggling to make their land pay, some farmer’s see suicide as the only way out.
Picton-Jones left his wife a lengthy suicide note detailing his fragile state of mind, but it was the line: “You weren’t able to save me but you can try and save someone else,” that inspired Emma to start her own mental health charity, The DPJ Foundation.
The DPJ Foundation primarily focuses on the Pembrokeshire area. As in many other small, rural areas, mental health issues are still seen as a weakness there and are almost never discussed. This may have something to do with the masculine nature of farming life, where opening up about your feelings goes against the hard, rugged image of ‘real men’.
The foundation has already raised £11,000 through donations and fundraising events. The money will be used to raise mental health awareness in the agricultural industry by training local vets, feed reps and others who work with farmers on a daily basis. They hope this knowledge will develop into a support network for local farmers who are not used to asking for help, even in these increasingly difficult times.
In an article she wrote for The Guardian, Picton-Jones said: “The DPJ Foundation is very much in the early stages of its development, but we already have plans for counselling support and group support work next year. We hope that another family will not have to suffer the loss mine has.”