We are delighted to support the launch event for a special issue of Sociologia Ruralis which brings together seven papers from four countries – UK, USA, New Zealand, Ireland – on the subject of mental wellbeing.
Organised by Cranfield University and the University of Exeter with ourselves to conclude Mind Your Head Week 2023, at 1.00pm today (17 February 2023) you can hear about the work from an ESRC research grant awarded to the Universities of Reading, Exeter, and Sheffield.
The aim of the collaboration is to learn lessons from each other and combine recommendations to understand better the priority actions for improving mental wellbeing across our farming communities.
First, we asked him about his interest in farming. He explained: “My parents’ home in rural Leicestershire backed onto farmland and I soon developed an interest in tractors as a very young child! From my bedroom window, I would see the land worked through the seasons and became interested in how food was grown and how decisions were made.”
But what about the issue of mental health – why was this important to him?
“Everyone has their own personal struggles with mental wellbeing or knows someone who struggles. Farmers are no exception. They are the essential workers that none of us could survive without and so ensuring that they get the best evidence-based support to help them feel better is important to me.”
The research reveals that farmers deal with multiple stressors at the same time – unpredictable weather, financial issues, isolation, strained relationships, succession problems, animal and crop disease outbreaks, rural crime etc. These combine together to affect mental wellbeing.
He continues: “Whilst farming is loved and enjoyed by many farmers, and indeed is a source of positive mental wellbeing, these stressors can combine to cause problems. Help-seeking in the farming community is affected by stigma, isolation, and lack of availability and accessibility of mental health services in some rural areas. The landscape of support for farming mental health is diverse with mental health professionals, charities, chaplains, auction mart staff, and peers (and others) providing formal and informal help. All face challenges in maintaining their support of farming communities and all need help.
When challenged about what more could be done to tackle mental health within the farming industry he suggests: “Continued normalisation of the issue and reducing the stigma of seeking help is vital. We can all do our bit here whether we encounter people in farming in the workplace, at shows or marts, in rural communities, or in education settings. Raising awareness is one part of the puzzle, then we need to ensure the safety net for farming communities is wide.
“All those who come into contact with farmers, including advisors, inspectors, buyers, etc. need to be trained to spot signs of mental distress and signpost towards help. Professional healthcare providers, such as rural GPs, need to be helped to build the farming knowledge that can build trust with farmers seeking help.
Who does David hope will take notice of this work?
“Policy-makers in particular, so that they can improve support available to farming communities. Also, organisations who work with farmers in various guises so that support can best be targeted towards different types of farmers.
You still have time to register for this event by CLICKING HERE
The special issue will be launched today in Sociologia Ruralis CLICK HERE