Norfolk farmer David Ottley spoke to a packed marquee at RABI’s annual conference about his mental health struggles and how he came to seek help from the charity.
David and wife Lizzie run Blue Welly Farm in north Norfolk and have three young daughters. “I had the farm and the family I’d always wanted but something was not right. I was not happy,” David said.
Over the years, David’s problems worsened and he began to drink more. A string of unfortunate circumstances befell the farm and David felt that he had ‘hit the bottom and crashed’.
David described a difficult time when his ewes experienced health problems, leading to them lambing four weeks early. Most of the new-born lambs could not survive.
“I was afraid of going into the lambing yard to see what I’d find next. I couldn’t do it. Lizzie held it all together, until the morning that she needed my help with a ewe that was having trouble. She said it was like watching someone who had never lambed before. I didn’t know what to do.
“I sat on the floor and felt empty and dead and just for a second I felt I might as well be because I had no feelings.
“I went to the doctors and went on medication, but I was still under a very dark cloud. Months of not being on the ball had meant that money had gotten very tight. I started hiding the bills from Lizzie, but also from myself.
“One day I sat outside at our table. Everything was dead, there were no birds and no life. I decided I had to do something because this couldn’t carry on.”
David sought the help of RABI and You Are Not Alone (YANA).
Sally Hubbard, a welfare officer for RABI, met with him to work out how the charity could help him and his family.
“She came out and went through everything. She helped us put together a plan on how we were going to pay off these bills. Things weren’t as bad as I thought they were. She also called some of our creditors and spoke to them on my behalf, which is something I couldn’t do.
“Most of all, she listened. She listened without rushing me.
“The money RABI gave us kept the house running so the farm had a little bit of time to rest and pay for itself. We could function and pay our bills.
“Sally and RABI helped me focus on the farm and walk through the fog to see the sun and hear the birds. They helped me get back on track to do farm work again. I’m looking ahead with a smile again.”
Pictured above are Lizzie (left) and David Ottley with Sally Hubbard (right).
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