SCOTTISH FARMERS are known for demonstrating great resilience during adversity.

The last year has been a clear example, by displaying determination and strength during periods of drought, heavy snowfall, fodder shortages and falling farm incomes.

However, the relentless work ethic of Scottish farmers has, at times, come at a price and that price is a deterioration of mental health and emotional resilience. The stigma surrounding mental health is still widely at large in rural areas. For many, it remains the ‘elephant in the room’, being well-known but largely ignored, often due to embarrassment. There are very few out there who cannot honestly say that they have been touched by mental health issues, either within their family or through their friends.

New Zealand farmer, Doug Avery, recently completed a tour of Scotland, where he challenged Scottish farmers to open up and talk about their mental health concerns. There has been wide-spread reaction to his talks and this has delivered a clear message – that many in rural Scotland are ready and willing to start addressing their own mental health issues.

Through our new 'mind Your Health' series, The Scottish Farmer hopes to keep the conversation going about mental health, through sharing personal accounts from those within the community on how they have coped with their own struggles. As Mr Avery said : ‘It’s okay to say I’m not okay’.

We hope it will help those who are facing similar challenges to realise they are not alone.

The National Rural Mental Health Forum aims to raise awareness of mental health in rural areas, bringing together more than 60 membership organisations, such as RSABI, SAMH and Samaritans, offering a range of expertise and guidance on different matters.

The forum has grown in number and strength over the last 18-months under the guidance of its convener, Jim Hume, reflecting a commitment and willingness from our rural communities to tackle the stigma around mental health and wellbeing.

“Mental ill health can be more difficult to tackle in remoter parts of Scotland, due to isolation, transport issues and stigma,” Mr Hume told The Scottish Farmer. “The NRMHF is in a unique position to help rural communities tackle mental ill health through the outreach of the rural organisation members of the forum, the expertise of mental health organisation members and this ground-breaking research.”

The forum is run by the mental health charity Support in Mind Scotland, who counsel around 1300 people per week across Scotland living with mental ill health. Around 80% of those it assists are in rural Scotland.

“Mental ill health can be prevented and can be treated, especially with early intervention,” Mr Hume added. “The forum and its members are keen to take action by raising awareness in rural communities and normalising talking about mental ill health.

“It is vital that farmers who feel they need help with their mental health to do so as soon as possible. Neglecting your wellbeing can lead to a deterioration in your mental health and can also lead to more serious mental health problems,” he concluded.

Guidance and support

If you have personally been affected by any of the content in this series and would like to seek further advice, please see the contact details of specific organisations below:

  • Breathing Space – Lines are open Mon – Thu between 6pm - 2am and from Fri 6pm – Mon 6am
  • RSABI - Helpline open seven days between 7am – 11pm on 0300 111 4166 or
  • SAMH – Call the info service on 0141 530 1000 Mon – Fri between 9-5 or
  • Samaritans – Helpline open 24/7, on 116 123 or 08457 90 90 90 or
  • Support in Mind Scotland (NRMHF) Call on 0131 662 4359 Mon – Fri between 9am – 5pm or

If you need urgent medical attention, then please call NHS 24 on 111 or call emergency services on 999.