For many, life in the country is an idyll. Somewhere to escape the rat race and have space to breathe and relax. For others, pressures resulting from social isolation, financial worries and long working hours can take their toll, increasing vulnerability to low mood, rumination and paranoid thinking.
With levels of depression in the farming industry increasing and suicide rates in agricultural workers among the highest in any occupational group, mental health provider, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), are encouraging people living or working in rural communities to look out for signs of mental ill health in themselves and others.
Mental health problems can affect anyone…
Mental health problems can affect anyone, with one in four people experiencing mental ill health each year in the UK. However, those most at risk in rural communities include middle aged, married couples in professional or skilled occupations and older more affluent individuals in commuter villages with good levels of physical health and education.
Hany El Sayeh, acting clinical director in North Yorkshire said: “The remote nature of rural communities can leave people feeling cut off and lonely. This, compounded with mental health difficulties, conservative cultures and strong masculine identities, particularly within the farming industry, can make it difficult for people to talk about their feelings or to seek help.
“Dangerous working environments and equipment pose real threats to people’s safety. That’s why it’s important to look out for signs that you or someone you know might not be doing so well. Something as small as not seeing friends, complaining of physical ailments or having conflicts with others could indicate that there’s a problem.”
Hany continued: “Just taking a moment to ask someone if they are ok, checking in with them more frequently or offering practical support can make the world of difference.
“Encouraging people to seek help is important. GPs act as a first point of contact and can provide initial support, give signposting advice and make any necessary referrals.
“We want to reassure anybody experiencing mental health problems that there is a variety of support available and there are things that can be done to help people recover. Mental health services have changed dramatically over the years with the majority of care and treatment now taking place in the community; often on-line or via the telephone. There is also a huge amount of self-help available on-line, in the library and in your local book stores.
“At TEWV we believe that everyone should have the same access to support, regardless of age, occupation or postcode and are committed to raising mental health awareness within the rural communities we serve”
Information about the impact stress can have on farmers is available here.
Five ways to wellbeing
Evidence suggests that a small improvement in wellbeing can help to decrease some mental health problems. This document, produced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) on behalf of Foresight, sets out five actions to improve personal wellbeing:
NHS choices Moodzone
Moodzone offers practical advice, interactive tools, videos and audio guides to help you feel mentally and emotionally better
Recovery College Online
Access a range of online mental health educational courses and resources developed by people with experience of mental illness.
These helplines have specially trained volunteers who’ll listen to you and offer mental health support:
(24 hours a day, 365 days a year)
Tel. 116 123
(Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm)
Tel. 0845 766 0163
Tel. 0300 304 7000
Tel. 0845 456 0455 / 0207 840 3188
Tel. 0845 122 8622
There are also a number of organisations who can offer practical support during difficult times…
The Farming Community Network
Supports farmers and families with a variety of issues, including financial difficulties, animal disease, mental health and family disputes.
Tel. 03000 111 999
Federation of Young Farmers
Young farmers give young people the opportunity to meet lifelong friends, learn new skills and make a real difference to the local community.
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Farming network providing advice, support and opportunities for those within the agricultural industry.
Tel.01423 54 10 00
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution
Offering financial support to farming people in hardship.
Tel. 0808 281 9490
Gamekeepers Welfare Trust
Supports gamekeepers and their dependants, past and present.
Tel. 01677 470180 / 0300 1233088.
The Addington Fund
Helping to provide housing for those leaving the industry.
Tel. 01926 620135
The charity supporting people in horticulture.
Tel. 0800 093 8543
The rural lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans plus (LGBTQ+) network.
The following helplines have specially trained volunteers who will speak to you and offer mental health support:
What to do in a mental health crisis…
If you no longer feel able to cope or in control of your situation you may be in mental health crisis. Advice on what to do is available here.
If you, or someone you know, are in immediate danger of serious harm go to your nearest accident and emergency department or call 999 for an ambulance immediately.
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