Phone advice in Wales aims to lift depression
By Robert Davies
A NEW telephone advice service for depressed Welsh farmers will be launched next month by the charity Rural Helplines/ Cymorth Cefn Gwlad.
It will give farmers access to operators with farming knowledge who will aim to put them in touch with agencies that might help, including the Samaritans.
Organisers hope the service will be used by farmers who are too proud to contact the Samaritans or Rural Outreach groups directly.
"Our message is that it is good to talk and we are not restricting ourselves to farmers," said Rural Helplines chairman Aled Jones-Griffiths. "Farmings problems have a knock-on effect on whole rural communities."
Farmers Union of Wales spokes- man Gwilym Thomas said any source of help for farmers and those who worked with them was welcome.
"The important thing is to ensure that every farmer is aware that somebody is prepared to listen," he said.
Figures released by some rural Welsh branches of the Samaritans show that countryside stress is increasing demand for their services.
Brecon and Radnor branch took 992 calls in 1995 when it was established and more than 5000 last year. Almost 21,5000 calls were made to the Bangor office in 1998, compared with 7600 in 1994.
A recent survey by the Powys-based Institute of Rural Health revealed the biggest stress factor for farmers was adjusting to new government regulations and policies, closely followed by form filling, lack of cash and poor market prices.
According to Helen Morris, one of the co-ordinators of pressure group Women in Agriculture, the organisation that organised a crisis rally in Brecon last week, the industry could trade its way out of its current problems if only hidden taxes were removed.
She gave the example of how the disposal of specified risk material and Meat Hygiene Service and veterinary charges could amount to £10.20 a ewe.
If the spinal cord had to be removed for export the total could rise to £18.70 so it was hardly surprising that some pens of poorer ewes did not attract a bid.
"When a farmer cannot even afford to take his stock off his farm to a market he is going to become very depressed and animals will have to be shot," said Mrs Morris.