Getting Real with Samaritans

As we embrace 2022, I’m sure everyone has considered just how incredibly challenging the last two years have been…

Two lockdowns, constantly changing restrictions and ongoing uncertainty have undoubtedly had an impact on virtually everyone’s mental health and none more so than in the farming industry.

While numerous ‘mental health awareness days’, ‘mental health awareness weeks‘  and some high profile mental health campaigns like our Mind Your Head and HSE’s Working Minds dotted around the annual calendar are vital moments to draw attention to the cause, it is an ongoing effort.

Only by working each and every day to address stigma and misunderstanding around mental health, can we normalise these conversations so people who are struggling feel comfortable to seek support and know where to turn to.

This is why we welcome the Real People, Real Stories campaign, launched by Samaritans in 2019. Anyone who cares about the farming industry as much as we do deserves our support and that’s why we will be backing the next phase of the Real People, Real Stories campaign launching on the 1st March which is aimed at reaching men in rural communities.

This campaign, supported by NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, centres on real men from rural and farming backgrounds sharing their own experiences of overcoming tough times in their lives, and how opening up and talking helped them with their struggles.

To understand why this matters for the farming community, we spoke to Paul McDonald, Executive Director of External Affairs at Samaritans. Paul’s background is in journalism before he made his move to the charity sector 20 years ago. Paul has been with Samaritans since 2015.

As Paul explains; “Samaritans is here for anyone  struggling to cope, no matter where they are and who they are. That means we need to increase our visibility amongst groups at risk. Mental health is complex, associated with a wide range of factors, which go beyond where you live and your profession; however evidence does show that living and working in rural areas can increase the risk factors. We therefore need to raise awareness of our free, round the clock and confidential support amongst this important group so they reach out if they are struggling.”

The next phase of the campaign starts 10 days after Mind Your Head ends and Samaritans will be sharing powerful stories from men speaking about their own experiences.

Paul continues: “By sharing these stories, we hope other men in rural communities who are struggling might recognise similar concerns and relate, encouraging them to seek help if they need to.”

Paul is keen to encourage anyone who may be struggling right now to just speak up: “It’s not a sign of weakness to admit that you’re struggling. Please seek help, whether it’s friends and family or your GP, it’s important to talk about how you are feeling. If you don’t want to speak to a loved one or feel you have no one to turn to, Samaritans is always here to face what you’re going through with you. We’ll listen without judgement and give you the space you need to work through your challenges. You are never alone.”

To learn more visit Please try and check in with one another, and if you’re worried about someone, please let them know that support is out there. Samaritans’ listening volunteers are ready to take a call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call for free on 116 123, email: or visit for online self-help tools and information.


stephanie_berkeley_zl4u2oa9Getting Real with Samaritans