RECOGNISING AND supporting mental health in the farming community has never been more important and World Mental Health Day is a reminder to the industry not to suffer in silence.

Many organisations operating in the agricultural sphere offer support and guidance for those who are struggling with addressing their mental wellbeing and have delivered an important message on why it is important to speak up.

“Don’t wait until you hit crisis mode,” urged RSABI’s welfare manager Mags Granger. “When you begin to recognise a difference in your behaviours and feelings, take this as an important sign to get help. If we can speak to people in the early stages of experiencing distress then we are more likely to be able to intervene before a crisis hits.”

RSABI offers a holistic approach to supporting the farming community and recognises that an individual suffering from poor mental health often stems from issues in the farm yard; be that a range of things such as financial pressures, issues over succession and in a huge number of cases, struggling to handle the death of a loved one. They don’t consider themselves as a charity but as a service, where they can organise the right support to intervene where needed and act as the middleman to relieve individuals from making difficult decisions and conversations themselves. In 2018 they supported 139 working farmers who came to them for help, but in the first six months of 2019 they have already supported 120.

“We always encourage people to go to a GP as a first point of call,” continued Mags, “however, farmers will often tell us that they can only speak to those who they know have an understanding of their farming pressures which leads them to our door.

“We have a helpline which farmers can contact us on, and phone calls go out regularly to working farmers, especially if they are on their own and might require extra support. If we believe someone would benefit from counselling, we will make sure they get access to someone sooner rather than later and shoulder some of the costs in cases of financial pressures. There is often something complex going on in the background when a farmer’s mental health has deteriorated and at RSABI we will aim to support farmers as best as we can get to the route of the issue and make necessary changes,” she concluded.

Over 130 organisations from the private, public and third sector are challenging mental health stigma, encouraging help-seeking, furthering research, informing policy, building community resilience, through their organisational membership of the National Rural Mental Health Forum. The convener of the forum, Jim Hume, reiterated the urgency of farmers to speak up as soon as a problem arises: “We know that one in four experience poor mental health at some stage in their life, and that getting support at the earliest of stages is vital. There is a growing movement working to tackle this issue in rural Scotland. It is everyone’s business, make it yours,” he urged.

This year’s WMH day is focussing on mental health promotion and suicide prevention. This animation explores the issue of suicide in Scotland and helps learners understand the signs that people may be thinking about suicide, and how and when to provide immediate help and support. Watch here -