The last blog post today comes from Joanna Foubister, Campaign Manager for the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs “Are Ewe Okay? campaign. This particular initiative, launched in May 2016 is run by SAYFC in partnership with the Scottish Association for Mental Health and aims to break the stigma surrounding mental wellbeing for young farmers based in rural Scotland.
Mental illness has become the talk of the town in recent years, and unfortunately, it has taken some casualties to realise the significance of the cause. Regrettably, many of the primary messages and campaigns have been targeted to the masses, usually those living in urban situations, and we know that there are varying triggers and influencing factors of mental illness in rural Scotland and again within the farming community, and in turn, different treatment and support systems are appropriate. ‘Are Ewe Okay?’ is working towards developing that support system, expanding the reach and making it relevant to the next generation of farmers in Scotland.
Today’s outlook of agriculture is uncertain to say the least; Brexit and shifting consumer culture is not only causing the path of the industry to be unclear but in turn, this makes individual situations very difficult to have any form of direction. The ever-unpredictable climate creates a challenging environment with recognised tactics failing to prove fruition. However, like it or not, this is the nature of the farming beast – we rely on the uncontrollable.
These difficulties are not going to disappear; therefore, we have to build resilience. Resilience is the capacity of people to confront and cope with life’s challenges; to maintain their wellbeing in the face adversity.
Relationships are a key component of this, and it is something that we could all improve. Modern day culture has made us selfish with ever-increasing competition for our time plus we are becoming less reliant of face-to-face contact as part of everyday living. As an industry, we need to take the proactive approach to encourage social connections. Organisations within the community should work together to build a sustainable support system, meaning these actions do not necessarily have to use the mental health banner in order to improve wellbeing.
During the time which I have spent developing the campaign, I have personally gained an insight into the varying conditions and symptoms of mental illness, although by no means am I an expert in any way. Through the campaign, I have spoken to many sufferers of poor mental health, some with diagnosed conditions and others who have not reached that stage yet. As a community, we have a role to play. Prevention is better than cure, and sometimes intervention can be as little as a conversation or spending time with someone who may be struggling.
As part of the ‘Are Ewe Okay?’ campaign we have been encouraging young farmers to speak out about mental health and break down the stigma and taboo associated with it. Viewing mental illness as a sign of weakness is often ignorance and we need, and want, to tackle this.
Our aim is by exposing information to our members, and the wider community, that the stigma surrounding mental health will start to diminish. The material used as part of the campaign includes information sheets and links to other sources split into specific areas of conditions and triggers of poor mental health. Real life stories of affected members is by far the most gripping and arguably the most effective part of the campaign with our already published cases from Jenna, Angus, Liam and Katherine.
Through a collaboration with the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) we are able to offer free workshops to our members. The workshops cover topics in order to help our members understand mental health, as well as what they can do to improve their own mental wellbeing and what to look out for in others. SAMH’s trained representatives are able to deliver a short presentation with discussion group in a way that does not patronise and is guaranteed to give information that every individual will be able to relate to.
If you, or someone you know in Scotland has been affected by this issue, the Scottish Association of Young Farmer’s Clubs can be contacted through www.sayfc.org/are-ewe-okay
For more information on how to book a workshop please contact Joanna@sayfc.org.