RSABI has played an important role in supporting Scottish agriculture by providing emotional, practical and financial support to individuals and their families across the sector. Welfare manager Mags Granger shared with the Scottish farmer her thoughts on the deterioration of mental health in rural Scotland and what RSABI are doing to support those who may be considering suicide.

“Poor mental health is having a crippling impact on Scotland’s farming communities. Farmers are faced with ever increasing challenges and when mental wellbeing breaks down, poor animal welfare and financial stresses can often follow suit,” she explained.

“You tend to find that when an animal welfare case has been notified, that the farmer’s own mental health will have deteriorated many months beforehand. For those who don’t seek support, it can sometimes take a crisis on the farm to materialise, before their own poor mental health is recognised,” she continued.

“Suicide is a real worry in farming communities in Scotland. It can be very difficult to spot the signs as sadly so many cases you hear about, people commonly say – ‘you would never have expected it of them’, or, ‘they always seemed bubbly and happy’.

Often farming can be sold as an idyllic lifestyle choice, working outdoors, with animals, an escape from the monotony of office life. However, Mags explained that with many farmers they face an often-thankless job, investing long hours, for little financial reward.

“City dwellers may moan about the boredom of sitting in a desk job, but there is the bonus of holidays, sick pay and guaranteed money at the end of the day. In farming there isn’t that same luxury of taking time off and now with less labourers working on farms, you find farmers are often carrying on for seven days at a time with no rest in between,” she stressed. “In many cases farmers are making little money and it can be a very soul-destroying job when you invest so much energy, time and emotion in to your work, to not see any rewards at the other end. Throw poor mental health in to the mix and suddenly everything will fall apart and sometimes there might not be anyone there to carry the load and allow them to take the time off to heal.

“Farming is often passed down through the generations and there is great pressure that comes with succession, not to ‘let your family down’. Sometimes farmers are so concerned with issues such as the weather and market prices that they forget that these aren’t things that they can have any control over and instead they need to focus their attention on things that they can change,” she urged.

Mags explained that through her work with RSABI they can guide farmers who are facing a variety of struggles to seek the best support available.

“One of the biggest misconceptions with RSABI is that we are often seen as an old age pensioners’ charity, where in fact we support farmers of all ages and in many cases, people come to us for practical and emotional support over financial,” she stressed.

“The industry can often be guilty of thinking it is all about money. Financial support will be necessary at times, however, we really try to support farmers by bringing in, for example, independent advisors, who could cast a fresh pair of eyes on their farm or accounts,” she continued. “Often it can be mediating a conversation between a farmer and an organisation which they have been avoiding or helping with crippling paperwork which is causing great strain.

“We aren’t councillors, but we will talk and will try and identify the issues we can help with and make sure we provide the support to tackle those areas. There is no point us going out and being a sticky plaster – we try and look at the whole picture, see where the pressures are and see how we can alleviate those,” she explained.

“People do come to us with suicide concerns – we have completed mental health first aid training and we want to keep people safe and talk through how we can help. We often will encourage farmers to speak to a GP, even help facilitate the call for them, if it’s something they are unable to do,” she said. “Of course, we would contact the police if it was an emergency, but we don’t want it to get to that stage as an early conversation can lead to prevention.

“Sometimes we find that an individual can’t spot the signs on their own, once you are in that head space, you often need someone to step in and offer the right tools to help,” she stressed. “Making time for yourself is not easy in this industry but by taking time to socialise, cultivate friendships, being active and getting involved in your local community can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.

“ I would urge the farming community to support one another by looking out for little changes that farmers around them may have made recently. Have they not been out on their quad for a while or visited the local mart? Does the farm look a little dishevelled? Don’t wait too long to pop in quickly and check how they are doing, don’t feel embarrassed about asking after them. Think about your farming community and worry about the people that aren’t there as well as those you can see,” she 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

Scottish Association of Mental Health – 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 (National Rural Mental Health Forum) 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.