New mental health initiative to support pandemic hit farmers

A new mental health initiative is being launched in Somerset to help anyone visiting farms to spot signs of potential problems and provide relevant support.

Founded by mental health professional Becky Wright, the Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture Group will provide resources to help such visitors communicate with farmers about their mental health or point them in the right direction.

“Farming is one of the loneliest industries in which to work,” said Ms Wright.

See also: Talking is best remedy for mental illness

“With the added financial and political challenges, it is no wonder that the industry experiences one of the highest levels of poor mental health.”

Ms Wright is especially aware that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may have psychological and social impacts that will last long after the physical symptoms of the virus.

Support

The Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture Group is being supported by the NFU, the Royal Bath and West of England Society and the Bristol Corn and Feed Trade Association.

It is developing a range of tools to support farmers who may be struggling to cope with the vagaries of farming life.

The first project under way is a pocket-sized information flyer – or Z-card – that sets out some of the symptoms of mental health and what to look out for in a family member, colleague or friend.

Visitors to farms are also encouraged to ask the farmer how they are, then ask a second time to show that they mean it and to encourage them to open up.

Signs to look out for

  • Declining interest in the farm
  • Change in personal appearance
  • Catastrophic and negative thinking
  • Withdrawing from social events, family and friends
  • Stress in the family – for example, financial or emotional stress
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Reliance on medication, alcohol or drugs
  • Irrational thinking, such as focusing on worst-case outcomes
  • An increasingly negative attitude towards their life
  • Difficulty in taking decisions – both big and small.

The Z-card also contains information of who can help, including the Farming Community Network, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and the Samaritans.

An online version has also been developed and will be sent out through a range of social media outlets and e-newsletters.

Hashtags to help spread the word include, #MentalHealthSomerset, #MHSomerset, #KindnessMatters, #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and #Mentalhealthfarmingsomerset.

For more information, please contact:

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