Auctioneers are great at talking – we can blether on all day. Since my baptism as a junior auctioneer canvassing customers by Loch Tay with a senior colleague, the relationships I’ve built and chats I’ve had have proved to be the best parts of the job.

But being a confident, sound board, business eye and friend, is also something many auctioneers take extremely seriously: For farmers working under pressure in isolated environments, we know that chat in the yard or kitchen could be the only one they have that day, week, or even month.

Marts themselves also play a critical role in enabling farmers to connect, share successes and disasters, or simply unwind with a bacon butty and chat about the rugby.

Right now however, the pandemic has halted those face-to-face interactions and farming charities are concerned about the impact on mental health. As farmers resurface from months of stressful lambing and calving, there are no marts to head back to, shows to attend, or other normal summer get-togethers to reconnect at.

Already the calls into RSABI last month almost doubled, and the number of people the charity is ringing regularly to break loneliness has gone up 200%.

That’s why IAAS is joining forces with RSABI’s new campaign, #KeepTalking, to encourage everyone to pick up the phone to a neighbour, friend, or acquaintance – for your own health and their’s too.

Earlier this week, as part of the campaign, the charity released a video of a family suffering from the devastation of suicide. In it, they give a heartbreaking account: They never knew anything was wrong with their uncle and believe his tragic death could have been avoided if he’d felt more able to talk.

So who can you connect with from the mart, for your own sake and theirs? The seller penned next to you who helps you sort your stock in the alley; the acquaintance you catch in the cafe before the sale; the friends you stand around the ring with, dissecting each entry; the auctioneer you bid to; the neighbour you enjoy a roast lunch with; the mart staff you chat to as they stamp your cheque; the family you’ve been buying from for generations.

Give them a ring. Let them know you’re there if they need. And if you’re struggling, let people know – there is no shame in it and we all need to get better at sharing how we’re feeling. If talking to your peers is too much, ring your auctioneer who can point you to support services, or ring RSABI directly on 0300 111 4166.

Our auctioneers are always at the end of a phone if you need them and will be increasing the number of calls they make at this difficult time. So let’s come together and #KeepTalking.