Today’s guest blog comes from Paul Burrows, Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I) Chief Executive. Paul outlines how a charity that has been around since 1860 is continuing to support the farming community in England and Wales and how they are working closely with other key organisations compassionately and discreetly to tackle the issue of mental health problems in the industry…
Sometimes, the illness leads to financial problems, but it can also be the other way around. For some people, tackling their financial problems can immediately relieve some of the stress, anxiety and worry.
As a charity, we give out grants to the farming sector of more than £2m per year. We can help financially by contributing towards domestic bills, paying for relief staff to work on the farm while someone recovers, organising free business appraisals, referring people to debt advisers, arranging emergency grants or helping with claims for state benefits. It might just provide a breathing space to hopefully take the pressure off and allow a better chance for recovery.
It is essential that anyone suffering mental illness obtains expert treatment. If we know that someone who appears to be in mental distress is not receiving medical support we will always encourage them to seek it and we work closely with other organisations such as the Farming Community Network (FCN).
If someone with mental health problems contacts us for help – or someone else gets in touch on their behalf – we often send a welfare officer out to meet face-to-face and assess what we can do. Our welfare officers understand the pressures of farming and provide a sympathetic, caring and human link to the charity. It’s incredible how having someone to talk to can so often be that vital first step on the road to recovery. Our welfare officers have undertaken courses in suicide awareness and mental health first-aid and want to listen.
Farming is a 24/7 business and many in the industry work very long hours in isolation in remote, rural areas. On top of that, there will always be factors that can quickly cause stress and anxiety to escalate such as market fluctuations, poor harvests, bad weather and animal disease. Not seeking support when symptoms first emerge can make things much worse. Many people think being strong involves keeping your head down, working hard, getting on with things and not admitting there is problem. We know that’s not true; it takes more courage to accept there is a problem, pick up the phone and seek help sooner rather than later.
If you, or someone you know has been affected by this issue, the R.A.B.I Freephone Helpline can be contacted on 0808 281 9490 for confidential advice and guidance or visit www.rabi.org.uk