Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health James Browne has launched a new initiative to coincide with the National Ploughing Championships, which is taking place this week. The campaign, “How Are You Today?” is aimed at creating awareness around the growing problem of social isolation in our rural communities and the importance of checking in with relatives and neighbours.

Deputy Browne explained, “Despite huge advances in communications and technology in recent years, many communities across the country are more isolated than ever, leading to an acute crisis in the mental health and well-being of people living in rural areas. Communities have become disconnected, and it’s no longer the case that everyone knows their neighbour.

“The problem is more exacerbated in rural Ireland, where 53% of farmers have been affected by suicide and 16% of farming families have some experience of suicide. This is a crisis which is gripping the country and which has to be addressed urgently. While Government investment must be increased to properly deal with mental health issues, this initiative is designed to get people talking.

“I am encouraging people to ask others “How Are You Today?”. To start a conversation. To let people know that talking helps. It doesn’t cost any money but could lift the spirits of someone having a bad day. I want to get farming communities thinking about people in their own localities who may be lonely or depressed and to realise the difference that a few simple words could make to them.

“This is a small step to encourage people to start thinking about mental health, particularly in rural Ireland, and the importance of talking to others in their communities that may be suffering in silence”.