When we thought about who was writing today’s blog for Mind Your Head, and the theme of his recently published Nuffield Report, the lyrics of this Beatles tune have never rung so true…
And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders…
“Hi there, my name is Jude McCann and I’m the Chief Executive of Rural Support, an organisation based in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, that provides support through a helpline which offers a listening and signposting service for farmers and farm families across Northern Ireland. The types of issues that we address include financial and debt problems, inheritance issues, physical and mental health concerns, farming paperwork and bureaucracy.
“Having grown up in Mid-Ulster, on a small family farm, I had an early awareness of the social, economic and other pressures that farm households experience. This awareness grew over the years and became a key focus of my subsequent university research. And this interest continues today and prompted me to undertake a Nuffield Scholarship entitled “Securing Farmers’ Resilience in a Changing World.”
“Just last year, I embarked on a journey to 13 different countries including Switzerland, New Zealand, Norway & America, and conducted over 80 face to face interviews so that I could gain a global perspective on current and emerging issues and challenges facing farmers and farm families. I was committed to gaining more knowledge and a better understanding of resilience among farmers and how it effects their overall mental wellbeing.
“The expedition was inspirational and I met some amazing people along the way that not only opened their homes to me but also their hearts by sharing their experiences, hardship they have had to overcome and how their day to day activities have had to change in order to survive and adapt in today’s rapidly changing world.
Farmers are incredibly hardworking people. Their family, farm business and animals mean everything to them.
“I noticed that the more I travelled, the more I recognised a recurring theme; farmers and farm households’ aspiration is to secure a viable farm business and to meet the needs of their families. What varies though is the nature of individual responses, the willingness and capacity of farmers and farm households to adapt, farmers’ level of inter-personal relations, access to support from others and the nature of the support systems and policies available. There is also an increasing understanding of the nature of the support required.
“Assuring farmers and farm household health and wellbeing are top priorities and prerequisites to address financial or production concerns. A holistic approach that incorporates long-term social and mental health issues as well as environmental and financial matters is now recognised as integral to resolving any immediate, shorter-term needs. This is central to farmers’ well-being and their resilience and is an emerging component in the strategies used by support organisations to help farmers and farm families to survive and thrive.
“There is a growing recognition that farm business resilience and indeed farm family resilience and emotional resilience are interconnected and interdependent. Farmers’ capacity to respond to change and to be resilient, needs a holistic support service. This requires coordination and multi-agency involvement that encompasses well-being, technical support, financial support and sound environmental management practices.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my Nuffield journey over the last 18 months. It has enabled me to gain a global perspective and expand my knowledge of this subject area immensely.
“All in all, farmer’s resilience and mental wellbeing is everyone’s business and we need to act now!”
To learn more about Rural Support visit www.ruralsupport.org.uk