‘Black Dog’ and Farmers

I've talked to a number of people who don't even know what 'Black Dog' is.

I understand that the term came from Sir Winston Churchill who surprisingly enough also suffered from depression.

He called it 'Black Dog' which I think is quite appropriate.

Now depression in farming is alive and well. There are many things that contribute to its likeliness:
Unrelenting long hours of work with sleep deprivation can get it started – calving –no time off.
Unresolved unhappy family expectations. This is not uncommon where families are all interwoven into the fabric of New Zealand agriculture.

I've seen one young farmer so angry with his dad's expectations and stupidity (in his opinion) he raves and bangs the walls. Getting some resolution by coached family meetings can help here.

Unhappy relationships are also a starter for depression. The feeling of loneliness and no control over one's life are a common cause.

Eventually one party stops communicating, all the feelings go inward and it is all downhill.

In an unreasonable, unhappy and often bitter relationship you may be better out of it. You could stay for the kids but what about your own mental health?

Not feeling valued. This also keeps coming up as the start of depression. It is more common in dairying too. Is the freedom, being your own boss and the monthly dairy cheque placed in your bank not enough?

Obviously not.

It will not be the sole reason but mixed with all of the above may be a starter.

Being stuck in the cowshed, working long hours with no support and interaction can be lonely. We are all sociable beings at the end of the day.

Head injury and fear of ill health can also start depression.

There are psychologists who specialise in head injury depression.

Heart Attacks and sudden cessation of normal routine and activities can start depression. It is quite common for people who are normally busy to suddenly find themselves stuck in hospital and bed. The mind is unable to cope with the sudden stop of activity.

Losing a loved one.

Farming has its own source of depressants. I am surprised just how many farmers are feeling down and depressed. I've been depressed and it's not a great feeling. It's actually dreadful. I know the signs now and am careful to keep myself chipper.

It is impossible to feel great all the time. Some days we are just going to feel not great. That's okay too.

How are you today?

If you suspect you or your partner have depression there is help out there. There are community groups set up to assist. You can talk to your GP who may provide anti-depressants.

My only caution here is to try to resolve the issues at the same time. Taking the clues and not resolving, in my opinion, is undesirable and not in our best interest.

Depression can lead to suicide and we all need to be aware of how black it can get for some people.

In Summary

'Black Dog' and depression has a big profile in New Zealand agriculture, particularly dairying.

Understanding it, and getting the right help is the first step to recovery.

It is an illness not a weakness. We men do not like talking down our feelings, it shows weakness.

If you are depressed or know someone who is step up and do something. The problem is unlikely to go away of its own accord.


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