Nine in ten farmers rank poor mental health as their biggest concern with experts calling for more focus amid high suicide rates. To tackle the problem “wellbeing hubs” are being set up by charities across rural England to help isolated agricultural staff get companionship and mental health support.
Specialists say farmers are especially vulnerable as they battle spiralling fuel and fertiliser costs, poor harvests and problems accessing goods and labour following Brexit.
Less access to GPs and bank managers – once the go-to professionals for farmers to confide in – is compounding problems. There are plans to upskill vets and insurance reps to fill this gap and keep an eye on mental health issues.
Research by the Farm Safety Foundation charity shows 94 per cent of farmers under 40 cited mental ill health as their biggest worry – a rise of 10 per cent since 2018.
The survey of almost 1,000 farmers also showed 84 per cent of farmers over 40 said poor mental health is their biggest worry.
Foundation manager Stephanie Berkeley said: “Most people don’t give much thought for our farmers who are working 14 hours or more a day to put food on our plates – with little or no profit.”
Kevin Feaviour, a psychologist, is rolling out health and social hubs in farmers markets and halls in southwest England.
The venues, run by his not-for-profit social enterprise, Imagine If, allow farmers to meet for tea or get a health check.
He said: “Farmers are isolated and research shows rates of suicide and mental illness are high.
“If people can do more to help themselves they can do more for others so we teach these skills.”
BBC’s Strictly winner, actor Kelvin Fletcher, who last year bought a 120-acre farm in the Peak District is supporting the Farm Safety Foundation’s Mind Your Head campaign.
He said: “Before joining farming, I had no idea the community was so heavily impacted by bad mental health. This campaign is vital.”
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