Blog: Concerns over Brexit and covid are putting pressure on the farming community’s mental health – Yorkshire Post

Country and Farming

Concerns over Brexit and covid are putting pressure on the farming community’s mental health

Nearly half of all calls made to its support helpline over the past four months have related to mental health, a farming help charity has reported.

Saturday, 10th October 2020, 4:45 pm

Pressures such as Brexit, extreme weather conditions and poor yields have impacted on farmer's mental health
Pressures such as Brexit, extreme weather conditions and poor yields have impacted on farmer’s mental health

The data revealed to mark today’s World Mental Health Day and next week’s Ag Mental Health Week, by the Farming Community Network (FCN), said mental health is now the most common factor in calls from members of the farming community.

These included stress and anxiety caused by issues including financial concerns, family relationship problems, Brexit uncertainty and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Jude McCann, CEO of FCN, which runs the Farming Helpline, said the figures gave an “important insight” into the experiences of farmers throughout England and Wales this year.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many farmers and their businesses and 2020 has also brought a range of other challenges – such as flooding and drought, poor crop yields and concerns about the short and long-term effects post-Brexit rural policy may have on the industry. All of these heighten feelings of stress and anxiety.”

Kate Dale, co-ordinator of the Yorkshire Rural Support Network, which is supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, said this year had been particularly tough for the rural community with the cancellation of agricultural events.

“Working in agriculture is hugely rewarding but it comes with inherent volatility because of unpredictable changes in the weather and fluctuating markets. On top of these normal stress factors has been the unsettling impact of coronavirus and an absence of social events to bring the farming community together from otherwise isolated farm settings.”

Mrs Dale said in the absence of these events it is even more important to look out for each other.

“The conversation around mental health and wellbeing in farming has become much more open, but there is still more we can all do to make sure people open up when they are struggling and receive the support they need – whether that’s from their family and friends, or if it’s easier, from a third party like our fantastic farming help charities.”

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Fund (RABI) said it had also seen evidence of farmers facing mental strain over recent months.

“We know many farmers have been having a difficult time recently – the evidence coming through from our helpline staff and other charities and organisations that RABI partners with, is that collectively our mental wellbeing is really taking the strain,” said Suzi Deeley, RABI corporate partnership manager.

“2020 has brought even greater uncertainty and unexpected change. There are numerous challenging circumstances affecting farmers’ wellbeing and unfortunately it’s something we’re hearing much more as a frontline charity.”

Since 2019, FCN has been working with the Samaritans charity as part of the Rural Support Initiative.

The initiative was set up by the York branch of the Samaritans and headed by David Moyles. It is the first time the charity has worked with another organisation to signpost callers to practical help. It is also part of the Yorkshire Rural Support Network.

Mr Moyles said the charity has been given ‘key worker’ status which meant they had been able to keep the phone lines open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr Moyles said it was important to try and encourage more men to talk about mental health and ask for help when they needed it.

“Men are more likely to be victims of suicide and we want everyone to know there is help out there.”

FCN is also holding its Big 25 walk today on World Mental Health Day to mark its 25th anniversary.

The walks will reflect the charity’s ethos of ‘walking with’ farmers and their families.

The Yorkshire Rural Support Network, supported by YAS, works with a number of farming charities, go to yas.co.uk

The FCN Helpline is open every day from 7am-11pm on 03000 111999. It also runs the one-stop resource site, farmwell.org.uk

The Samaritans helpline is free and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

RABI’s free helpline is 0808 281 9490. This autumn it launches an online wellbeing support and counselling service.

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