NEW RESEARCH by University of Stirling and SRUC will explore which interventions can best support the mental health and wellbeing of people in Scotland’s farming and crofting communities.

Views are to be gathered on two possible interventions: one which will deliver emotional and social support – including financial advice – and the other will be an online psychological therapy, which has been specifically developed for the farming and crofting community.

“The underlying reasons for poor mental health among the farming and crofting community lies in the unique social, environmental and economic challenges of rural food production, therefore an intervention that is targeted towards helping farmers and crofters cope with these issues may be more acceptable and beneficial," said Professor Margaret Maxwell of the University of Stirling.

“We know that farmers are more likely to turn to their own communities for support than to health or social work authorities, with many preferring to engage with advice from colleagues such as vets or use anonymous supports such as telephone or on-line resources," she continued. "However, there is no current knowledge concerning preferences, and acceptability or up-take, of remote interventions and how these can best be signposted to farmers and crofters.”

Behavioural Scientist at SRUC, Dr Kate Stephen, added: “This project is looking at what types of support farmers and crofters could benefit from, and how this could be adapted to suit them best. We’re interested in the wider farming and crofting communities – not just owners but farm workers and family members, whether the farm or croft is large or small.

“We’re thinking about how to get in early, to prevent things getting worse, how to help farming and crofting people to recognise when they are struggling in themselves, and what ‘tools’ help them to turn things around," she explained.

“We would also like to hear from people from farming and crofting communities who understand what it feels like to struggle. We’d like to include people who don’t usually ‘pick up the phone’ to ask for help.”

The study will be conducted in the Highland area and the Shetland Islands and researchers are looking for volunteers to take part in early-stage interviews and focus groups. This will be followed by a pilot study of the interventions which will seek to recruit 40 members of the farming and crofting community.

If you are interested in taking part or would like more information, email or visit