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Sowing the seeds of mental health for those who care for our crops and food

It has been said that the psychological and social impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic are likely to outlast the physical symptoms of the virus. This is a particular issue within the agricultural industry, as whilst UK farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops and machinery, it appears they do not have such a good track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing.

To help tackle this issue, farmer support groups have teamed up with mental health professional, Becky Wright (founder of New Leaf Workplace Wellbeing) to create The Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture Group.
The group provide resources for those visiting farms to help recognise and support their farmers who may have mental health issues. Group founder, Becky says: “Farming is one of the loneliest industries in which to work. With the added financial and political challenges, most of which cannot be influenced by the farmer, it is no wonder that the industry experiences one of the highest levels of poor mental health. We hope that this group, our first project, and others that will follow, will provide some tools to support those closest to the farmers to seek the right help and guidance.”
The idea is that those visiting farms will have resources available to them to be able to communicate with farmers about mental health, or to be able to signpost them to places of support.
The agriculture group includes representatives from a range of support organisations who have come together with the sole aim of supporting the farming community through their challenges, and are developing a range of tools to support those within the farming community to identify and support farmers who may be struggling to cope with the vagaries of farming life and whose mental health is deteriorating.
The first project developed by the group is an easy-to-read pocket-sized Z-card information flyer that sets out some of the symptoms of mental health and what to look out for in a family member, colleague or friend. It also contains information of who can help – the Farming Community Network (FCN), the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and the Samaritans.
The next project to be launched by the group later in the year - funded by the Bridgwater Agricultural Society - is a collection of short film clips which highlight the issue of mental health in agriculture, and which will be shown at events and distributed via social media.
If you are reading this and feel concerned or anxious and would like to talk to someone who understands farming, please call The Farming Help on 03000 111 999 who are there to listen to you and help you think through your options.
The Farming Help partnership is a collaboration between The Addington Fund, The Farming Community Network, R.A.B.I, RSABI and Forage Aid and is supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

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