Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

Mental health challenges in the farming community

04/04/22Mental health challenges in the farming community

It is shocking to read that a survey by the Farm Safety foundation reveals that 92% of farmers under 40 believe that poor mental health is now the biggest problem they face. This is an increase from 82% just four years ago. It is tempting to blame this rise on Covid but research from the Universities of Reading, Exeter and Sheffield has shown that although the pandemic has certainly worsened farmers’ mental health, those surveyed said they were struggling before it struck.

Unsurprisingly, the reasons for poor mental health included impending changes to BPS, resulting from Brexit, isolation, bureaucracy, climatic conditions. The report stated, “against the backdrop of huge regulatory change the first wave of the global pandemic was very hard on farmers with the driest spring on record, the removal of formal and informal support networks and major shifts in the pattern of consumption and demand.”

What can be done to support farmers' mental health?

Researchers recommended that mental health first aiders should be trained as a matter of urgency to provide signposting and support for farmers. The report also identifies that the shift to online provision makes better broadband access more important than ever so that rural communities can access help more easily.

Everyone working within the sector can make sure they familiarise themselves with organisations and networks to better support mental health and rural resilience. One such organisation is the DPJ Foundation that covers the whole of Wales and works with bodies such as NFU Cymru, FUW, YFC and the Welsh Government. DPJ Foundation recommends talking therapy with a trained counsellor or therapist listening and helping find your own answers to problems without judgement. It also provides a 24hr helpline to talk to a volunteer who can listen or set the caller up with a counsellor. DPJ’s has a ‘Share The Load’ guarantee that those who call will be contacted within 48 hours by a counsellor and seen within a week, either online, telephone or face to face off-farm. Since being set up in 2016, DPJ has helped hundreds of people access counselling.

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