Last week, officials from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) agreed to pursue the development of a mental health strategy for the farming industry, prompted by David Simpson MP, who demanded government intervention to deal with the specific mental strains that farmers face.
Despite appearances – the rolling fields, animals peacefully grazing and fields of crops lighting up the landscape, farming is a very high-pressure job, with few days off, round the clock working and the pressures of the market.We have seen in Somerset the additional pressures placed on those who are largely responsible for managing our landscape. Flooding on the levels devastated many and TB in cattle is an ongoing concern.
Most farmers are male, and as we have written about on this web site, men are far less likely to discuss their personal problems and are statistically much more likely to commit suicide than women. Hours alone in the fields, isolation both physical and mental and the additional burden of running a business in tough times can exacerbate mental health problems and the social isolation can mean that others fail to notice the symptoms until it is too late. There are particular difficulties in accessing support in counties such as Somerset, where stretched services are concentrated in urban areas, but there are some organisations that are devoted to working specifically with the farming community. These include:
The Farming Community Network which can take calls between 7am and 11pm, with those answering having specific knowledge of rural issues..
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I.), which helps farmers and farmworkers of any age if financial issues are causing strain.
And of course there are mental health charities such as Young Minds, Mind, Sane and Time to Change which can offer support for those experiencing depression and anxiety and many other mental health issues.
The BBC Countryfile magazine website has a particularly good article HERE
So if you or anyone you know works in the agricultural industry, it is a good idea to be specially alert to the symptoms of depression and take care of emotional as well as physical well-being. Do get in touch with us here at The Terrace if you think we can help. We are always happy to talk through the options available.