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Ministers must ease Brexit uncertainty for the sake of farmers’ mental health

There are a range of factors contributing to poor mental health among farmers, but Ministers could ease one worry by removing Brexit uncertainty, says Mike Rumbles, Scottish Lib Dem agriculture spokesman.

I want to raise a very serious issue that has been bought to my attention in recent months – the increased risk of suicide and other mental health issues for rural workers, particularly farmers and farm owners.

 

Our farm businesses have been under immense pressure in recent years.

 

Brexit, uncertainty created by mishandling of support payments, bad weather, the rising costs of feed and seed and low income have all played their part.

 

I want to be careful not to oversimplify the challenges faced by people working on farms and in rural industries. It is clear no single issue is to blame.

 

But it is important to recognise the factors which have contributed to this worrying trend.

 

Isolation

 

We know isolation is an issue and those conditions make farmers more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

 

Agricultural workers now have one of the highest suicide rates in the country and charities have said calls to crisis centres from rural workers are also on the rise.

 

The Farmer Network, which helps farming families in need, reports a 47 per cent increase in the amount of money it paid out last year.

 

The good news is this problem has not gone unnoticed.

 

The National Rural Mental Health Forum, which includes organisations such as Robert Gordon University, the NHS, Samaritans and the NFUS, has taken a front seat in developing a strategy to tackle this issue.

 

Forum

 

My former Liberal Democrat MSP colleague Jim Hume is a member of the forum and he has informed me it is also included in the Scottish Government’s long-awaited Suicide Prevention Plan.

 

I think there is also a lot more our Governments in Edinburgh and Westminster could do to help ease the burden of uncertainty.

 

For a start, rural support funding should be guaranteed for the foreseeable future and there should be a clear plan of how the money will be targeted.

 

Importantly, the framework for support should be designed by those who know and understand the challenges and strengths of rural Scotland.

 

If you or someone you know may be suffering from depression or other mental health issues, I urge you to call the helpful team at Samaritans on 116 123.


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