IN THIS fifth article of our Mind Your Health series, we have decided to look at the impact of living rurally on young people throughout Scotland and how this has also played in to wider concerns for mental health.

There is a real concern that depopulation of rural Scotland is leading to an ageing population, as young people chose to move away and seek opportunities in more urban locations. Building a brighter future for young people in rural Scotland has been a huge objective of the Rural Youth Project, organised by Jane Craigie, who runs a marketing company which looks specifically at engaging and supporting rural businesses and people.

One year in to establishing the RYP, Jane explained what events and work she has carried out to develop an understanding for how young people are feeling about living remotely and how this has impacted on areas such as mental health. Through this project, Jane and her team hope to empower young people to play a more active role in their local community, and to better recognise the benefits which can come from living and working in rural Scotland.

Jane Craigie – give young rural people a voice

“Rural places have no future without young people. Wherever I travel, the world over, this is a universal truth – when our youngsters leave it’s rare that they return and if they don’t return, then rural places lose crucial services such as schools, health services, sports and leisure facilities and other community hubs.

"This vulnerability spurred my colleague, Rebecca Dawes, and I to found the Rural Youth Project. Our main driver was to understand the challenges for youngsters living and working in the countryside, and what can be done to secure their future in these places.

“So, last year we surveyed around 750 young people aged 18-28, asking them more than 60 questions about all aspects of their lives. Their responses highlighted a trio of woe: the lack of connectivity, digital and physical; limited and expensive housing options; and inadequate career and earning opportunities.

“But hidden behind the statistics we gathered was a repeated and worrying thread – that of mental health – something that was buried in the survey responses and at the forefront of the conversations that arose at the Rural Youth Ideas Festival we held last summer.

“Hearing the 80-plus young people gathered in a field in Kinross, I was blown away by how articulate everyone was in describing the mental health situation in our countryside, as well as what some of the solutions might be. I was also aware that the causes of the emotional anguish many felt was not necessarily because of the rural isolation – an NHS survey reported late last year cited that one in seven 17-19 year olds were found to have a mental disorder, with young women in this age group having higher rates of emotional disorder. For rural dwellers, their situations were exacerbated by and more complex in physically remote places.

Rural youth issues

“The RYP highlighted three distinct themes: Isolation – digital, physical, economic and social isolation affect young people markedly at a time when they are developing their life plans, careers and relationships. Young people need positive emotional, physical and role model stimulation. In isolated places, these nurturing environments can be difficult to find.

“The second theme which kept occurring was the ‘lack of voice’ – there was a feeling amongst many in the rural youth community that older people drive community decisions, often with little respect nor regard for young people’s views, needs and ideas. This can be very true of the challenges facing the farming community where young farmers are working full-time on the family farm however not having a chance to make important decisions about the future direction of the business.

“Finally, we identified specific personal circumstances to be a concern. The young people we met were very open and candid about their personal circumstances. Again, many of these challenges are shared by their urban counterparts, but often the support just isn’t available in rural places. For example, we had one girl who suffers from multiple sclerosis, she must take a four-hour round trip for her hospital appointments – tough if public transport is poor or you are earning very little. We also met a young girl who told us how her autism made it difficult to integrate fully into life, whilst another sparky young woman told us of her family’s harrowing encounter with domestic violence and how little support, and importantly understanding, there was in her rural community.


“The Church of Scotland appointed Reverend Chris Blackshaw as its ‘Farming Minister’, someone to listen and to care about people’s troubles, signposting them to help; we need more of this kind of rural pastoral care for both the young and the elderly – and for the rural community, in its widest sense to take an interest in the care of people.

“Young people respond to nurturing, positively challenging and cool places to work and through our engagement with young people they told us they would forgo some income to work somewhere that feeds their sense of place and wellbeing, as well as provides them with an income. As business operators in rural places we need to think about what we ‘do’ and give back, as much as how we profit from our work. Young people are key to the success of the rural sector and we need to do all we can to attract and retain them – to help our rural economy to flourish.

“There is a need to create intergenerational communities where connecting young, aspiring leaders with the community stalwarts is a sound way to combine the energy and creativity of the under 30s with the wise experience of the older generations. This interaction also deals with issues like mental health, as well as spawning other opportunities and activities – such as co-living and work opportunities, as well as providing all-important support from young to old, and vice-versa.

“As we often see in farming, there are young people working on the farm eager to take on more responsibility and lead in important decisions, however, issues of succession can hold back this development. We need to empower young people to make changes that are right for them and their futures – whether that’s personal, career or community.

"Young people can be incredibly empathetic, with a real drive to make things better; investment in our young people will drive a more productive, innovative and successful rural sector,” concluded Jane.

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

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 You can reach us by phone on 0131 662 4359 Mon-Fri between 9-5.

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