A new charity hoping to help farmers and their partners cope with mental illness has received a ‘significant’ donation from Prince Charles.
It comes as more than one farmer a week commits suicide, with farmers still reluctant to seek help if battling a mental health illness and facing significant financial pressures, poor harvests, market fluctuation and isolation.
In a video message to his Duchy of Cornwall tenants, Prince Charles said he was demoralised to hear how those working in the tourism, farming and the food sector had been affected by the pandemic but heartened by their altruistic behaviour and good will.
He said: “This coronavirus has perhaps reminded us that society works because people do things together for the common good, whether that is key workers keeping us healthy, farmers producing our food or the supply chain meeting our needs.
“We all know that food is not made by supermarkets.
“At a farming level, one of our energetic and selfless new entry farmer tenants in Herefordshire, Sam Stables, not only took on an entire flock of sheep from Yorkshire and lambed them for a friend stricken by the virus, but also started a charity to help with mental health issues amongst the farming community.
“As you can imagine, I am extremely proud of him”.
In May, Farmers Guardian reported on Mr Stables’ act of kindness which saw him lamb an additional 140 pregnant sheep on his farm in Herefordshire to ease the pressure on a family friend who had been hospitalised by Covid-19.
Talking about his new charity, We’re Farming Minds, which aims to help tackle isolation among rural communities and signpost farmers to relevant services, Mr Stables said: “It is more important than ever to look after ourselves, and one another, mentally.
“Prince Charles is a fantastic ambassador for British farming and his support gives further recognition that mental health is a massive part of farming and helps address the stigma about it, encouraging farmers to face up to it.
“I am not ashamed to say I have suffered from mental health in the past and have been lucky to have a support network of friends and neighbours.
“The donation from the Duchy was the kick-start we needed, as our first charity event planned pre-Covid-19 was cancelled.”
The charity hopes to first-aid train members of rural communities, such as feed reps, to recognise the signs of mental illness and signpost farmers to help.
It will also hold events for farmers, and their partners, encouraging them to get off farm and socialise, with professionals attending to signpost anyone to available support.
Mr Stables said: “We must not forget partners of farmers are under incredible pressure as they step up and look after everything in times of difficulty.
“It is not an easy time for them but that often goes unrecognised as they put their needs behind those of loved ones.”