MENTAL HEALTH is one of the major challenges facing Scotland, with one in three people believed to be affected by mental illness in any one year – and farming suffers probably more than any other sector.

There remains great disparity in the progress of mental health provision in Scotland, with rural areas lagging behind urban areas in terms of access to guidance and support.

Within the farming community, long hours and few holidays come with the job, meaning often farmers don’t take the time to recognise that things might be getting out of hand, or to find time away from their busy schedule to recover and seek support.

This past year, many farmers across Scotland will have gone through periods of mental instability given the many challenges brought on by some disastrous weather patterns. This has led to fodder shortages, ruined land, wasted produce and poor financial returns, especially for livestock producers who bore the brunt of last year's severe winter weather.

But, there are differences between experiencing a temporary period of feeling low and depression. With the latter, it is important to understand that an avoidance of seeking help, can worsen things. While mental health is now being talked about more and it is in the public eye, there remains confusion about categorising mental health and understanding the severity of an illness that a person may be going through.

Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days. This prolonged state of feeling low can often be combined with an aversion to activity, negatively affecting a person's thoughts and feelings. There can be physical symptoms, too, such as constant tiredness, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains. Depression can cause people to lose interest in things they used to enjoy, to feel miserable, anxious, hopeless or even suicidal.

Depression can be triggered by several factors, not the least of which in this industry is coping with the weather and lots of other issues which can largely be out of your control. Foot-and-mouth was a terrible example of this for the farming community and there was no individual who wasn’t touched by the grief that it brought to the industry. Life-changing events like this can cause huge emotional stress, which can imprint upon an individual’s sub-conscious for many years.

There are still those who view depression as a weakness of character or a trivial illness and not a genuine health condition. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a real illness with real symptoms. The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.

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.