6 October 2000
Brown boosts fight against rural stress

By Alistair Driver

EFFORTS to tackle the spiralling problem of stress among farmers hit by falling incomes have been given a 500,000 boost from the Government.

The Rural Stress Action Plan, outlining how the money will be used by voluntary groups, was launched in London on Friday (06 October).

Co-ordinators the Rural Stress Information Network will use the cash to train more volunteers to deal with victims of stress and help existing organisations.

Emphasis will also be placed on making people aware that self-help groups exist and creating more stress networks, particularly in the south-east and south.

Farming has always been a stressful occupation, as farmers often work alone in isolated spots and can never switch off because their home is their work.

Collapsing prices in recent years have increased pressures as producers face the prospect of losing their businesses and homes.

The rate of suicide among farmers is 50% above the national average.

Although farm minister Nick Brown had to pull out of the event at the last minute because of more pressing work in his constituency, RSIN director Caroline Davies said she was delighted with the award.

It was announced in March as part of the Action Plan For Farming.

The number of people contacting rural help groups has increased dramatically in recent years, said Rev Gordon Gatward, a founder of the Farm Crisis Network.

And more and more large, previously successful farmers were turning to the group for help, he said.

In addition to the FCN and the RSIN, many other groups are involved, including the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and the Agricultural Chaplains Association.

The Samaritans, the National Farmers Union, the Tenant Farmers Association, the Country Landowners Association and the T&GWU are also playing a part.

Rev Gatward summed up the feelings of all these groups. “A few weeks ago I had to take the funeral of a farming friend who had shot himself.

“For months his wife had been trying to get him to talk to someone, but he wouldnt.”

“There is nothing to be embarrassed about in talking to someone about your problems. The important thing is that farmers know we are here and that we can help.”

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