TODAY marks the launch of a new study addressing mental health in farming,conducted by Robert Gordon University in partnership with NHS Grampian.

The study – aimed at bringing the issue of mental health out of the shadows for some farmers and addressing ways to offer better support – got under way at Orkney Mart, moving to Thainstone Mart in Inverurie on Friday.

It comes in response to national statistics which reveal that on average, every week in the UK, one farmer is taking their own life.

One of the lead researchers who will be out speaking to the farming community this week, Professor Kay Cooper, commented: "We know that farmers and others working in the agriculture sector regularly experience distress, anxiety and depression, which in turn are related to greater risk of injury. Aside from the personal impact, poor mental wellbeing has a significant economic cost."

Working alongside Robert Gordon University will be NHS Grampian’s director of health, Susan Webb: “We are committed to supporting the farming community to stay in good health, recognising the massive contribution they make to life,” she explained. "This research project is very welcome, and I look forward to seeing the results of the interviews and workshops."

Mental wellbeing in farming was one of the key themes addressed at last week’s NFU Scotland conference. Former union vice-president and dairy farmer from Stranraer, Gary Mitchell, shared his own mental health experience with the delegates:

“Last summer was a very difficult time; trying to balance representing the union and keeping things afloat on my own dairy farm, my own mental health took a real downturn,” Gary explained. “My farm at home was in crisis and my work with NFUS became an escape from everything else that was going wrong at home. I couldn’t face up to the problems and glossed over it all.”

He began to fill his head with thoughts about whether he was good enough for the union and lost confidence in his ability to run the home farm. Eventually he decided it was time to resign from the former. “After it was announced I was leaving, I remember farmers picking up the phone to give me their support,” Gary continued. “Farming can be a lonely business, so it is so important to have others there at these times.”

Gary delivered a pertinent message to the farming industry, to look after their mental well-being: "We are good communicators of bad news! Any industry bar ours talks about continued professional development – farmers do not do enough of it,” he stressed. “Part of the reason I wanted to leave this role is because over the last five years I haven’t developed, and I want to take time out to do that.

"Don’t hold yourself to ransom that ‘I must run this farm till I die’ – this is not what this industry needs. Think about succession,” he urged. "Farmers are good at making a five-day job last seven – always challenge your time. Make sure you have someone you can call and say ‘I’m not okay’ – if you haven’t, RSABI are trained to do this - phone them," he encouraged. "Problems do not solve themselves - I have experienced that.”

Guidance and support

If you have personally been affected by any of the content of this article 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.