People seek support from the Farming Community Network for a number of reasons, writes Charles Smith, Chief Executive of FCN.
They could be anxious about not receiving their farm support payment, stressed about the harvest or depressed about losing their cattle to bovine TB.
But the most common factor in almost all cases is poor mental wellbeing. If this is not addressed, the consequences can be disastrous.
Poor mental health is arguably the biggest health topic in this country at the moment. One in four people have been diagnosed with a mental illness; and the leading cause of death for people aged between 20 and 34 is suicide.
This year, we have heard of extensive plans to overhaul the UK’s mental healthcare system. We’ve also seen campaigns, led by members of the royal family and other high-profile celebrities.
This has been great in raising awareness about mental health, particularly in farming where mental health issues continue to be of great concern.
Farming continues to have one of the highest rates of suicide of any occupation, with approximately one farmer a week taking their own life.
Whatever plans there are to improve mental healthcare in this country, it is essential that farmers, or anyone living remotely, have access to the same standards of care as those living in towns or cities.
We hope the focus on the need for such provision will ultimately yield the support which is so badly needed.
Thankfully, mental health is less of a stigma that it once was in farming, thanks largely to the amazing work of young farmers across the UK.
The recent news of the suicide of a Young Farmer in Wales, Owen Warren Carlisle, is a stark reminder of just how susceptible young farmers can be to poor mental health.
But not only are young farmers much more willing to open up and seek help when they need it, but they are doing incredible work encouraging older generations to do the same.
The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) are also doing great work in helping members identify potential mental health issues with their Rural+ training programme – something which FCN is playing an active role in supporting.
But the message is now getting through to the older generation.
Well-established agricultural organisations, including Agrii UK, Frontier Agriculture and PD Hook Hatcheries, are working with FCN so that their farmers, contractors and members of staff know where, when and how to seek help when they need it.
People now realise that bottling up your emotions is the worst thing you can do.
FCN has never defined itself as a mental health charity, but rather a voluntary organisation that provides pastoral and practical support for farmers and farming families who are going through difficult times.
But problems on the farm, whether they be personal or business-related, can lead to poor mental health. Often, the first step to improving poor mental health is simple – talk to someone.
But who can farmers talk to? Many prefer not to talk to their friends or family in fear of becoming a burden.
Instead, they prefer to speak to a 3rd party – someone they have no emotional attachment with, yet has a great understanding of their situation – this is where FCN comes in.
Many of our 400+ volunteers are involved in farming and therefore have a great understanding of the issues farm workers and farming families regularly face.
All cases that come to FCN are treated confidentially and non-judgementally. Our volunteers will support farmers and “walk with” them for as long as it takes.
Whatever your concern may be, or if you are concerned about someone else, FCN is here for you.
If you need someone to talk to, call the FCN helpline on 03000 111999, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The helpline is open 7am-11pm every day of the year.