A NATIONAL #KeepTalking campaign is being launched this week by RSABI, the charity which supports people in Scottish agriculture.

Timed to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, the initiative has the support of a host of partner organisations involved in Scottish agriculture, with auctioneers around the country acting as its ambassadors.

Kicking off this Saturday, May 23, the date when the Fife Show was due to take place, the campaign coincides with the end of the main period of calving, lambing and other spring work, when there is traditionally a quieter period and people could be at particular risk of feeling lonely, anxious or unhappy. This year there will be the additional impact of COVID 19 restrictions.

Its aim is to encourage farmers, crofters and others involved in agriculture to make the time to pick up the phone, or chat online, to connect with other people. It will culminate with a National #KeepTalking Day on June 18, which was due to be the first day of the Royal Highland Show, when RSABI and the campaign’s partners, ambassadors and supporters will be encouraging everyone to make a call to someone they haven’t spoken with in the past six months.

“When the adrenalin rush of spring work is past we are concerned that people working in agriculture may find themselves feeling more isolated and exposed,” explained RSABI chief executive Nina Clancy. “In some respects many farmers and crofters will have been shielded to a degree from the lifestyle changes due to COVID 19 which others have felt, as they have been so engrossed in spring work.

“However, it is now when they would usually be getting out to auction markets and agricultural shows around the country, and are this year not able to, that they may really feel the impact.”

RSABI has a helpline supported by RHASS – 0300 111 4166 – which is available seven days a week, 365 days a year, and Ms Clancy said the charity’s staff are ready and waiting to receive calls and signpost support.

“Usually attending agricultural shows and events helps people in our industry to chat, download and re-kindle friendships – this year that won’t happen and we want to make sure people find that support in different ways,” added Ms Clancy.

A high-impact video, featuring a farming family describing the days which led up to them losing a much-loved relative who felt unable to share how he felt with family, will also be a key part of the campaign. The family members who are interviewed in this short film are convinced that if he had talked openly with them, or RSABI, the outcome would have been very different.

Another key initiative which will form part of the campaign is a new book, being compiled by Andrew Arbuckle, of light-hearted farming tales. RSABI has been encouraging people to share these quirky stories and share experiences by taking a lighter outlook in these difficult times.

Perthshire farmer and comedian, Jim Smith, said he was 'delighted and honoured' to be asked to front the campaign: “Agricultural shows and auction markets play a very important role in the social side of farming life and so the timing of this campaign is ideal. As farmers, we’re not the best at expressing how we feel so it is more important than ever this year that everyone in the agricultural community supports each other and gets behind RSABI’s campaign,” said Mr Smith.

The campaign is being supported by organisations including the Royal Highland Agricultural Society Scotland, Scottish Government, Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers Scotland, National Farmers Union of Scotland, Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs, Quality Meat Scotland, Scottish SPCA, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership, Scottish Agriculture Organisation Society, Women in Agriculture Scotland, National Sheep Association (Scotland), Scottish Land and Estates, AHDB Scotland, Scottish Association of Mental Health, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, Scottish Crofting Federation, Scottish Beef Association; and Scottish Pig Producers.