It was back in 2022 when three Young Farmer clubs took part in a year-long trial testing out a new NHS mental health app, Thrive backed by RSABI. Speaking to Anna McDiarmid of Aberfeldy and District JAC about the experience she said:

“It started through the Young Farmers’ Development and Wellbeing committee. I had just completed a summer internship at RSABI, and I knew they were trying to pilot this app within the agricultural community, and within a couple of weeks, it was brought to the Development and Wellbeing committee who jumped on the chance to trial this amongst young farmers clubs.”

For Anna it was a no brainer to trial the app with a group like Young Farmers.

“Young people today are always using their phones, so trialling the app through a group like Young Farmers was the best way to see the apps full potential.”

The Scottish Farmer: Cammy Wilson testing out the app during an episode of Landward with former Biggar YFC chari Ross JacksonCammy Wilson testing out the app during an episode of Landward with former Biggar YFC chari Ross Jackson

The app itself is similar to journalling with options to update your daily mood and answer baseline questions about how you feel. The app recognises if you log negative emotions multiple days in a row and will then try and help you whether through useful resources or access to a licensed therapist within 24 hours.

“The app is really good for recording your mood day to day, you can log if you feel happy, excited, hopeful but also sad, anxious, stressed etc. Regular low mood triggers the app’s programming and you can be put in touch with a mental health professional very quickly.”

Providing free access to counselling all from the comfort of your own home is arguably one of the apps strengths. Thrive provides flexible options regarding speaking to someone, once put into contact with a professional, users have the choice of talking over text, phone call, or video chat.

“It’s really good in that way; if you don’t necessarily feel comfortable speaking on the phone, you can message a mental health professional instead. Equally - there will be a lot of farmers out there that maybe don’t get to see people all that often, so having the video call option is also really important.”

The Scottish Farmer: Some of the team (L- R, Former SAYFC manager Sheena Foster, RSABI CEO Carol McLaren, and previous Biggar YFC chair Ross JacksonSome of the team (L- R, Former SAYFC manager Sheena Foster, RSABI CEO Carol McLaren, and previous Biggar YFC chair Ross Jackson

The app was piloted across three Young Farmers clubs including Aberfeldy alongside Biggar and Bell Baxter, being available to over 100 members over the 12-month trial period. The initial roll out was in the Autumn of 2022 and as of November 2023 Thrive is now available anyone in Scottish Agriculture to download free of charge.

“You don’t have to be a Young Farmer to download it, but I highly recommend it amongst the farming community - we all face struggles every day, but aren’t the best at talking about it. One of the best things that has come out of trialling the app has been the conversations it has opened up surrounding mental wellbeing.”

Three members of the Young Farmers Development and Wellbeing committee managed the pilot scheme. Alongside Anna from Aberfeldy, was Skye Watson from Biggar YFC and Annabel Brown from Bell Baxter ADS. They were ably assisted by Sheena Foster, former national manager of SAYFC and Chris McVey, current welfare manager at RSABI. Anna describes the process of introducing the scheme as positive.

“Everyone was really supportive of the launch of Thrive within Aberfeldy – we are relatively speaking a small club, so it got everyone talking, regardless if they wanted to be part of the trial or not.”

At the time the pilot scheme attracted its fair share of media attention and even Cammy Wilson of TV and internet fame gave Thrive a go on an episode of Landward.

“It was really good to have Cammy talking to Ross Jackson of Biggar Young Farmers and trying out the app. It helped to spread the word, and highlight how easy it is to use.”

Anna has currently been with Aberfeldy and District JAC for six years, joining when she was 15. She has held positions as both press secretary and assistant secretary and is involved with the Perthshire District committee along with her role in the Development and Wellbeing committee.

“I really enjoy being part of Young Farmers, and taking on roles within these committees has helped my confidence massively. Being part of the Development and Wellbeing committee has been hugely rewarding and I have loved seeing it go from strength to strength.”

Currently the Development and Wellbeing committee are looking ways to encourage club members to take on office bearer positions. Anna highlights that the committee are offering training and advice to help potential secretaries and chairs, as well as those currently in office.

The Scottish Farmer: Look after EWE-self, The logo SAYFC used to promote the pilot schemeLook after EWE-self, The logo SAYFC used to promote the pilot scheme

“We really want to encourage people to give office bearer roles a go!

There will be a lot of members that might not believe they can do it, but with bit of training and support they could be great. We are currently developing a new training platform to offer help to current secretaries and chairs, as well as help prepare future office bearers.”

When it came to October’s Agri Awards, Anna said that an application was put in purely out of recognition for the work that went into promoting the app.

“We decided to put an application in to celebrate all the hard work of everyone involved in the Thrive pilot. RSABI were fantastic to work with on this project, and we wanted to highlight all the hard work that went into making it a success.”

When it came to the nominations, Anna and the rest of the committee were not expecting to make it in.

“Genuinely, we didn’t expect to make the shortlist! We were up against some very good nominees, both of whom are people I have followed for some time. Winning the award amongst many deserving initiatives was quite special. I hope that the Thrive project has opened up a positive conversation about mental health and really encourages folk to keep talking.” Thrive: Mental Wellbeing app is free to download on mobile devices and open for anyone to use.

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The Scottish Farmer: You can scan the QR code to download the Thrive: Mental Wellbeing appYou can scan the QR code to download the Thrive: Mental Wellbeing app