RAISING AWARENESS of mental health amongst the young farming community has been an important goal of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs.

Three years ago this May, they launched their ‘Are Ewe Okay’ campaign, which aimed to normalise conversations around mental health and increase awareness within the Young Farmers community.

The SF spoke with former chair of the society, David Lawrie, who explained a little about the campaign and the challenges facing young people in the agricultural community. He also highlighted that many YF’s can reach the end of their stint with SAYFC and find themselves at a loss of what to do next, and suggested some key changes which would help ease this transition.

David Lawrie

“Every year with the society we do a campaign to raise money for different charities and in 2016 we decided upon the ‘Are Ewe Okay’ campaign, which provided a platform to normalise discussions around mental health within the YF’s.

“We don’t offer support ourselves but using our platform we have been able to showcase individual case studies and drive awareness in this important area. It also came at a crucial time, where the wider industry was beginning to highlight mental health as a growing issue and this year, we have decided to relaunch our campaign, as there is such an appetite and a need to keep the conversation going around mental health.

“We are seeing across the industry that poor mental health is having a worrying impact on businesses and there is no doubt that everybody in the community will know someone who has struggled with their mental wellbeing at one point or another.

“As a farmer myself, it is easy to understand where the pressure comes from, especially with men who do struggle to open up to one another when times are tough. When you get good weather on the farm, you can sometimes be away for the whole day, working long hours, alone in your tractor – then you come home, eat, sleep, repeat.

“When my dad was farming there were always people around but now the machines have got bigger and farm workers are disappearing, so it’s often you and the tractor on the job. Yes, you can speak to people on the phone, but it’s not the same as human contact and you can sometimes go weeks hardly seeing anyone. This loneliness can often be compounded by social media, which can make you feel like you’re missing out and leaves you feeling far removed from activities and events your friends are attending.

“Although we are now more aware of the challenges around mental health, there is something to be said with the current young generation and how far things have come in terms of removing stigmas around lots of different social conversations. Our generation has grown up with a drive towards equality on lots of fronts – farming isn’t as male dominated as it once was and if you look at our boards and groups within the SAYFC, we have brilliant gender representation.

“The next battle, however, is where young farmers go next, bridging the gap from leaving their clubs behind. This can be a difficult step and could leave individuals feeling increasingly isolated and cut off from the vibrancy and busy environment which they had become accustomed to during their SAYFC days.

“YF’s spend years building up fantastic skills during their time within the SAYFC and their personal development mustn’t end when they leave the society behind. There is a real need to get more young people on to agricultural committees and boards, as opposed to waiting 20/30 years, which is so often the case.

“Organisations need to be more open to taking on young people and continuing their personal development and offering opportunities where new members will want to invest the skills, they have built up over their time within the SAYFC. Similarly, young people leaving SAYFC behind shouldn’t just bury themselves in work and family commitments but look to carry on their education journey and continue to give back to the industry which has nourished them so far.

“One initiative the national council and board of SAYFC brought in last year was working with organisations like the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society which helps with the personal development of individual members, so when they are finished with their stint on council they are ready to join other boards out with SAYFC.

“We have a pool of fantastic YFs across the country who would have excellent tools at their disposal and would be a credit to any board. Being involved with different organisations and attending meetings is a really important way of improving your work/life balance and is a great way of looking after your mental health as well as giving back to the industry,” he urged.

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 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 rsabi@rsabi.org.uk

SAMH – Call the info service on 0141 530 1000 Mon – Fri between 9-5 or enquire@samh.org.uk.

Samaritans – Helpline open 24/7, on 116 123 or 08457 90 90 90 or jo@samaritans.org

Support in Mind Scotland (NRMHF) Call on 0131 662 4359 Mon – Fri between 9am – 5pm or info@supportinmindscotland.org.uk

You can reach us by phone on 0131 662 4359 Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

ACIS (Aberdeen Counselling & Information Services) –Call Helpline 01224 573892 during normal office hours, or between 5.30pm – 8.30pm Monday to Thursday.

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