10.05.2022: To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, music therapist Karen Diamond explains below how The Farmers’ Choir improved the wellbeing of farmers in Northern Ireland.
This piece is the first in a series of case studies on the Power of Music to highlight the importance of music to health and wellbeing.
Following the success of other singing for wellbeing projects in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT) the Farmers’ Choir began as a six-week pilot.
The NHSCT had been working with the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) exploring what strategies could be put in place for farmers and farming families to address the issues of social isolation and the poor mental health and emotional wellbeing of farmers which had been highlighted in 2019 by Malcolm Downey, Principal Inspector Health & Safety Executive Northern Ireland when he stated:
What we really need now is action! UK farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops and machinery, but what we need to remind them is that looking after their own physical and mental wellbeing should always be the priority.
The UFU invited members from their Mid and West Antrim area to come along to a taster session in Autumn 2018. They publicised it through newsletters and sent text reminders each week. The Northern Health and Social Care Trust funded my input, provided a rehearsal space and refreshments each week.
The choir had to meet in the evening after milking! So, a rehearsal time of 8pm was set. We thought we might have eight people at most but 12 arrived at the first session and by week six we had 30 people aged between 40-80+.
The group were naturally concerned about singing in a group and in particular that a music therapist was the facilitator. It required some explanation that this wasn’t therapy but singing for its health benefits.
There was some initial reluctance around the use of breathing exercises and warmups but when I explained why I was using these techniques everyone joined in and it was really encouraging to see just how relaxed the farmers were as the sessions progressed.
Read the Power of Music report from UK Music and Music for Dementia here.Back to news