SOME great progress is being made on reducing the stigma around mental health in Scottish agriculture and, with the prospect of change ahead for Scottish farming, the timing of this is very important.

Among the initiatives with the potential to make a real difference is the Mental Health First Aid training RSABI has been delivering over the past 15 months with former Royal Marine, Major Hugh Jones of IED Training Solutions

Most recently this involved two brilliant days in Shetland with people ranging from SAC consultants to ScotGov and Shetland Council officials, a lawyer, vet, young farmers and many more.

There are now 500 new Mental Health First Aiders in Scottish agriculture, all united in their enthusiasm about the benefits the training will bring. There is potential to make a real difference to someone who is struggling by knowing how to have a supportive conversation and being able to help them find further professional support if needed.

The training also covers the very difficult subject of suicide and, sadly, the reality is that almost everyone sitting around the training room tables knows of someone in our industry who has taken their life.

We are still losing too many people of all ages as a result of suicide and too often the RSABI team sees the devastation – and often bewilderment - felt by friends, families and neighbours left behind.

We are pleased to work closely with some of the leading charities and organisations dedicated to driving positive change through suicide prevention and, encouragingly, the message is very much one of hope.

One in 20 people live with thoughts of suicide and it is something we can all play a part in helping to prevent. The two biggest messages from a recent video we filmed in Aberdeenshire with suicide prevention experts, are the significant positive impact of asking someone you are concerned about if they are having thoughts of suicide.

Difficult though the word and the subject may be, the reality is the more comfortable we can be with talking about suicide, and the more we understand the steps we can take to help prevent suicides, the safer our communities will be.

The other key message is that of transformational power of kindness, something RSABI’s #KeepTalking campaign is highlighting. Research consistently shows that even small acts of kindness can have a profound impact on someone’s mental health and, if someone is really struggling, a kind word or gesture could help to pull them back from the brink.

Farming life is busy but it is so important to make time for kindness.