Mental health issues in the countryside will be the subject of a debate on Twitter tonight (Tuesday 18 October).

Members of the farming community will meet on the social networking site at 8pm to discuss mental health in relation to farming and other rural families. A panel of experts will be joining two-hour discussion, including:

  • Professor Louis Appleby, clinician/adviser to government on mental health and widely regarded as the UK expert on suicide prevention (@ProfLAppleby – tweeting from 8.30-9pm)
  • Norman Lamb MP, minister for social care (@normanlamb – tweeting from 8-8.30pm, depending on signal)
  • Glyn Evans, Farm Crisis Network (@FCNinfo)
  • Dr David Middleton, psychiatrist and married to a farmer (@drdmiddleton)
  • Karen Messruther, Gatepost rural helpline (@GatepostTweets)
  • Alison Fairleigh (@alisonfairleigh) and Tom Whitty (@tweetingwhitt) – co-founders of RuralMH (@ruralmh), a social media chat aimed at helping rural mental health in Australia

AgriChatUK hold a two-hour online discussion on Twitter every Thursday night between 8pm and 10pm. This week’s subject ties in with a recent feature in Farmers Weekly, which explored the problem of high suicide rates in the farming community.

The aim is to allow people to swap views, experiences and share information and advice. You can read what others are saying, or you might like to join in with your own comments and experiences.

Questions being tackled tonight:

Q1b How did you deal with it (mental health problems)/did you seek professional advice? If you did seek help was it useful? #agrichatuk

Q2a What counselling services or professional help is readily available to rural communities throughout the UK? #agrichatuk

Q2b For our mental health experts out there – what should people do if they are worried about a loved one, or they think someone is feeling suicidal? #agrichatuk

Q3b If you were feeling depressed, anxious, stressed, or suicidal, would you a) feel you had someone to talk to about it? b) Feel you could talk about it? If not, why not? #agrichatuk

Q3a What can we do to make it easier for people to find/seek support from such professional sources? #agrichatuk

Q4a Have you or someone you know in the farming community ever had suicidal thoughts? Would you know how to help someone in your family, or one of your workers, if you suspected they were under stress or feeling suicidal? #agrichatuk

Q4b Do you feel that today there are greater pressures on farmers which could lead to a rise in individual stress and anxiety? If so, what are these pressures; and what (if anything) can be done to mitigate them? #agrichatuk

Q5a Are farmers too reticent to talk about their problems? Is a problem shared a problem halved, or instead seen as a weakness? #agrichatuk

Q5b What impact has twitter had in identifying/helping to resolve rural mental health problems? #agrichatuk

 Q6a Is there still a “grin and bear it” mentality and stigma of mental illness and health issues in the farming community? How do we get over this? #agrichatuk

Q6b “Stress is also caused by changes in the perception of farmers and of their place in rural society” do you agree, what are your thoughts? #agrichatuk

Q7a What can be done to improve and maintain the mental health and wellbeing of people in farming? What would be helpful? #agrichatuk

Q7b How much does peer pressure and clinical workaholism contribute to problems in the farming community? #agrichatuk

Q8a Is going to see a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or therapist still viewed negatively in the farming community? If so, does this stop people seeking help? #agrichatuk

Q8b How much do you know of resources such as ecology, green care, and care farming? Can agriculture and rural areas help to rehabilitate those affected by pressures? #agrichatuk

How to get involved in the Twitter chat

  • All you need to do is go to Twitter and search for #agrichatuk to see what others are saying, plus include it in your tweets so others can see what you’re saying.
  • You’ll also be able to see the discussion on the homepage of FWi when the event is taking place, even if you’re not a Twitter user.
  • If you’d like to suggest a question in advance that you’d like the organisers to ask on the night, tweet or DM it to @agrichatuk ahead of the event.
  • The discussion takes place on Twitter between 8pm and 10pm tonight (Thursday 18 October)
Rachel Jones on G+