The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) is farming’s oldest and largest charity, a key supporter of Mind Your Head, last year around 13% of R.A.B.I’s new referrals cited ‘mental health issues’ as a contributing factor to their problems.
Although the charity does not offer professional counselling services, it can provide important financial assistance to people with mental health issues which can go a long way to relieving some of the stresses and worries encountered. We caught up with Jackie Clegg, a R.A.B.I regional welfare officer in the north of England for 20 years. Like all R.A.B.I welfare officers, Jackie has undergone training in suicide awareness and mental health first aid. Here, she tells us some of the issues she sees relating to mental health in her everyday activities…
“Day to day, I meet a lot of people suffering from depression. Just yesterday, I visited a chap who was completely devastated having lost half of his lamb stock. He was crying and I urged him to go and talk to his GP. He was clearly and obviously depressed.
Also this week, I visited an elderly man who was distressed because potentially, he could lose his entire life’s work.
“Many of the people I meet are overworked and this does not help mental wellbeing. Sadly, it can be a vicious circle.
“I’ve not encountered anyone expressing suicidal thoughts in the last year or so, but I have come across such cases in the past. I’ve visited people in psychiatric wards following nervous breakdowns and sometimes these people have been sectioned. When the stresses of life and farming escalate things can quickly get out of control. If someone is mentally fragile, a downturn in their economic circumstances, for instance, can push them over the edge.
“I try not to make assumptions or take things for granted. For instance, just because someone is eccentric it doesn’t mean their mental health is compromised. Often, it’s important to get second opinions.
It’s not often that I come across people who are completely on their own. With their agreement, I’ll liaise with other organisations on someone’s behalf but the important thing is to get that person to seek medical help and go and see his or her GP. Often, especially if it’s a first visit, I might pick up on things that have previously gone unnoticed.
“I meet people at their lowest ebb; when they have hit rock bottom and their finances are under pressure. Perhaps they have dead stock, diseased animals or maybe their bank is withdrawing support. These are serious issues that would test anyone’s resolve but often they are just part of the overall problem. A lot of the emotional and financial distress I come across is due multiple issues rather than just one single factor; with things like family tensions or issues relating to succession planning also commonplace.
“Sometimes, I’ll come away from a visit, sit in my car and shed a tear, but it’s important I stay focused and make sure I give those in need all the support I can. I’m always thinking ‘what else can I do to help?’ and ‘have I missed anything?’
“However upsetting a situation might be, I need to make sure I cover all of the bases in order to do the best job I possibly can.”
HOW R.A.B.I. can help…
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) is farming’s oldest and largest charity. R.A.B.I can provide important financial assistance to people with mental health problems. Sometimes, the illness leads to financial problems, but it can also be the other way around – and for some people, tackling their financial problems can immediately relieve some of the stress, anxiety and worry.
R.A.B.I gave out grants of £2.2m to farming people of all ages in 2018 and can assist financially in various ways, such as:
• Contributing towards domestic bills
• Paying for relief staff to work on the farm while someone recovers from illness
• Organising free business appraisals
• Referring people to debt advisers
• Arranging emergency grants
• Helping with claims for state benefits
• Paying for hospital travel costs
Often, providing financial assistance can provide a breathing space to hopefully take the pressure off and allow a better chance for recovery. If R.A.B.I knows someone in mental distress is not receiving medical support they will encourage them to seek it. R.A.B.I works closely with The Farming Community Network (FCN), and refers many people who are feeling depressed or anxious to them. R.A.B.I also directs people to the Samaritans and other mental health charities. Signposting is an important aspect of their work.
For more information please visit www.rabi.org.uk