[SIZE=7]The quiet suicide epidemic plaguing French farmers[/SIZE]
In France, one farmer commits suicide every two days. Dairy farmer Michou from the Loire-Atlantique region agreed to talk to us about the quiet epidemic that’s affecting his community.
For farmers in the Loire Atlantique region, suicide has become an everyday matter. “There are lots of suicides,” Michou told us, wearily. “I have a neighbour who committed suicide, and also my cousin is going through a rough time. The pressure to produce, to earn a living, it’s just crazy. And there’s the alcohol too."
Raymond’s suicide was not linked to alcohol. Michou believes it was a culmination of exhaustion, stress and the drought. That year, the animals’ fodder had dried out under the harsh sun.
“We’d just worked 365 days non-stop, getting up every morning at 5am. And at night he would be with the cows during calving too. We went from having 120 cows to 180, and that’s not easy. Each animal still demands the same amount of attention. You can see there was a problem! A real problem!"
Every two days, one farmer in France commits suicide
Dairy farmers have a suicide rate that is 50% higher than France’s national average. The problem is most acute in Brittany and the Loire region.
As well as their everyday tasks, farmers also have to care for the animals day and night, all year long. Christmas, wedding celebrations and birthday parties all get cut short, because the milking still needs to be done. The work never lets up.
Years of hard, outdoor labour are marked on the faces and bodies of those who have dedicated their lives to farming. Talking about what is inside, opening up about their feelings, is not something many farmers are comfortable with.
In this tight-lipped community, Michou has tried to break the taboo linked to mental health. “I always told myself I must not end up like that. And I can tell you, I’ve got plenty of reasons to. So from the start, I got help."