Covid crisis prompts mental health support for young farmers

Young farmers are being offered support to help them tackle the emotional impact of the coronavirus and emerge stronger from the pandemic.

The Farming Community Network (FCN), National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) and the DPJ Foundation mental health charity have come together to create the training, with input from young people in agriculture to ensure the support is relevant.

See also: Where farmers in need can find charity help

The training, which will launch in April, will focus on understanding stress and anxiety, managing personal mental wellbeing, how to talk about mental health and seeking support and supporting others.

‘Lighter days ahead’

Rural chartered surveyor Morgan Williams helped develop the programme, which is for 10- to 26-year-old Young Farmers’ Club members and 16- to 25-year-old agriculture students yet to embark on their first placement or role in the industry.

Mr Williams, 27, who does volunteer work for FCN, grew up on his family’s mixed farm in Port Talbot, Wales, and is aware of how difficult the last year has been for many young people in rural areas.

“While you feel there are dark days now, there are much lighter days ahead,” he told Farmers Weekly.

“I would say to all young farmers who are looking at the training, enter it with an open mind because the things you might learn in this training, they might never be something that affects you but it may put you in a position to better understand others that it does affect.

“It may put you in a position where if one day someone comes to you with worries about their mental health, you can help them.”

Westminster support

The training has been funded by The Westminster Foundation and will be part of NFYFC’s and FCN’s Rural+ project which launched in 2013.

Richard Jeyes, NFYFC’s youth forum chairman, said: “The development of the Rural+ training module will give Young Farmers’ Clubs an essential resource to support their members’ wellbeing.

“We hope this training will help to improve resilience as we face major changes in the industry and additional pressures from the pandemic. We are delighted to be working with FCN and The DPJ Foundation to develop training that will equip young farmers with vital skills to help them manage future challenges.”

Chloe Dunn

Chloe Dunn is a FCN volunteer and part of the development group around the Rural+ training © FNC

With Covid-19 restrictions still in place, the training will initially be delivered remotely by experienced Rural+ trainers.

A recent study by the Farm Safety Foundation revealed that 88% of farmers aged under 40 rank poor mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today.

Where to get help if you are struggling with mental health

The Farming Community Network runs a confidential national helpline (03000 111 999) and e-helpline,  which are open every day from 7am-11pm.

“Share the Load” The DPJ Foundation’s confidential 24-hour telephone (0800 587 4262) and text (07860 048799) line provides callers with access to Samaritans trained volunteers who will listen without judgement and who can help.