A Minister has been championed for his commitment to farmer health and well-being in Scotland after gaining a permanent role at a livestock mart.
Church of Scotland pioneering Minister Reverend Chris Blackshaw works full-time at Craig Wilson Livestock Auctions, Ayr, to encourage farmers to speak up about their physical and mental wellbeing and persuade the community to be more courageous in discussing the need for help.
Although only in his fourth week in the new role, Rev Blackshaw previously spent two years working as agricultural chaplain in Cumbria and has continued to help farmers tackle rural, social and family problems.
He hopes, if proven successful, the initiative will be rolled out in other areas of the UK.
He said: “My role is mostly based in Ayr mart supporting farmers with issues such as suicide, mental health, alcohol addiction, fatal farm accidents, isolation and much more.
“Farmers often have no-one to explore and find their own answers with and that is what I try to do. Sometimes all people need is that push to help them make a decision.”
Brought up on his family’s farm, Rev Blackshaw said his love of breeding British Longhorn cattle, which he now does as a hobby, helped him have an understanding of farming and ‘how things are’.
He prompted the need for a similar initiative to Field Nurse, a successful scheme in England where a qualified nurse spends a few days a week at marts to offer basic health check-ups, but warned funding difficulties were standing in the way.
“The farmers up here are very friendly, open and willing to talk,” Rev Blackshaw added.
“But they will not knock on your door and come and talk to you – you have to talk to them, and it can be anywhere.”
Reverend Neil Glover, Convener of Church of Scotland Ministries Council, added: “We know modern-day farming is stressful and the sector faces a number of pressures.
“Reverend Blackshaw will be able to meet local farmers and build relationships with them, providing both spiritual and practical support which we believe will be invaluable to supporting farmers’ lives.”