Leading figures within the agricultural sector have highlighted mental health awareness training for individuals and businesses should be ‘compulsory’, in an effort to help those struggling within rural communities.
In a webinar titled ‘Mental health: How are you doing?’, led by the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) at this year’s Virtual Royal Welsh Show, the heads of the country’s most established farming charities united to discuss the importance of education in tackling the industry’s plight with mental health issues.
With one farmer each week taking their own life, founder of the DPJ Foundation Emma Picton-Jones said: “We all need to be more confident in spotting the signs of poor mental health and signposting onwards.
“This is why we run mental health first aid training and mental health awareness days, which allows individuals and businesses to explore the most common mental health conditions.
“It explains a five step skill system that will enable clients to go away with a clear understanding of how to support and care for individuals with poor mental health.”
Gareth Davies, chief executive of Tir Dewi, which has helped over 200 farmers since its launch in Wales five years ago, echoed this and highlighted mental health training should be compulsory for everyone.
“Covid-19 has added to a long list of issues farmers were already facing and we therefore need to be able to recognise what a mental health issue is, in order to develop mechanisms for coping with the immediate problem,” he said.
“The training the DPJ offers is excellent and, unless we help to educate, we are not going to be able to take the lid off the problem within the farming community.”
Pointing to long waiting times and difficulties in accessing help through the NHS, Mrs Picton-Jones also reinforced farming charities provided another vital route to gaining support.
She said: “Talking therapies are the single most effective way of dealing with mental health issues but there is often a huge waiting list to access this kind of help, which is why we set up our 24/7 ‘share the load’ councelling referral service for those who work in agriculture.
“This allows for online, telephone or face-to-face councelling, and many other organisations operate helplines.”
Suzy Deeley, corporate partnership manager at the RABI, added recent developments due to the pandemic meant it was now more important than ever to keep the mental health conversation alive.
“All of the farming charities work together to try and make people of aware of the support available to them," she said.
“Help is out there – if you are worried about yourself or someone close to you, pick up the phone and get the ball rolling.”
For more information on how the people at the forefront are helping to tackle mental health issues within the farming industry and rural community, you can listen to Farmers Guardian’s Over the Farm gate podcast, which can be found here.
Advice and support can also be found on the Farmers Guardian ’Strive to Thrive’ hub.