FARMING charity RSABI has reported a significant increase in demand for its services over the past year, with mounting pressures on the agricultural community exacerbated further by lockdown restrictions.

Between April, 2020, and March, 2021, RSABI handled an average of 228 helpline calls a month, a 60% increase on the average of 144 calls a month which were recorded in the year prior to Covid-19.

Around 150 clients are receiving daily, weekly or monthly calls from the helpline staff and volunteers and in the last financial year, RSABI reported that 99% of their clients received emotional and/or practical support.

In recent months, the combination of poor weather and ‘Covid fatigue’ has led to a surge in new clients.

With many in Scotland’s agricultural community now having lived in rural isolation for over a year, without the bustling show season and other social highlights in the calendar, many of RSABI’s clients have benefited from regular calls as part of their call-out service.

Even with restrictions beginning to lift, many events this summer are still cancelled, and the charity’s ‘Keep Talking’ message remains in place for many months to come, to encourage the agricultural community to continue to pick up the phone and check in on friends and neighbours.

Chief executive of RSABI, Nina Clancy, commented: “As farmers are busy with spring work, they may not be noticing the easing of lockdown restrictions yet. It has been an awful year in so many ways, but our farmers and crofters kept working hard to produce the food we all enjoy.

"When all the work is out of the way, being able to socialise, meet friends and family will be of huge importance as staying connected is important for mental health.

“But loneliness and isolation were issues in the agricultural community before the pandemic, which is why we’ll continue to encourage people to reach out and stay connected, and to get in touch with RSABI if they need to talk.”

The Scottish Farmer has teamed up with RSABI to bring our readers case stories from individuals who have benefited from the support on offer by the charity. The story (right) is a typical RSABI case and the support provided by the charity.

All names and some particulars have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

David’s Story

David had worked for over forty years on various farms in Scotland and his intention was to keep on working until he was unable to. Unfortunately, he had a massive heart attack and it was made clear to him by his GP that he would no longer be able to work on the land again.

He called RSABI after his wife saw an ad in the Scottish Farmer. He was feeling as though his whole world had collapsed. He didn’t want to burden his wife with how he was and admitted he had become withdrawn. After chatting through how he was feeling we talked about the future . . . which David was having difficulty seeing.

As his housing was tied we helped make contact with the local council housing department and organised welfare rights to help him apply for the benefits he was now entitled to (he had never been on benefits so had no idea). We made sure that he and his wife had enough income to get him through the next six weeks until his benefits were paid. He was allocated a council house and we helped with the removal costs, a cooker and a washing machine as these had to be left in the farm cottage.

We called David every week and chatted around how he was feeling and he said he felt much better for the chats. We discover he loved working with wood and getting out on walks (which his wife wasn’t keen on). We gave him the telephone number of the local Men’s Shed and some walking groups.

He made contact and up to lockdown had been involved with the Men’s Shed and the walking group. During lockdown he has continued his walks and spends hours in his shed on his woodwork projects. We call him once a month now and he has found a new future which he is thoroughly enjoying.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling please call the RSABI helpline on 0300 111 4166. The helpline is open every day of the year from 7am to 11pm.