NFU Scotland President, Andrew McCornick outlines the challenges facing Scotland’s farmers and crofters and the importance of recognising stress and asking for help if you need it…
Coming off a year of bad weather and difficulties throughout the industry, it is beginning to look up for Scottish farmers and crofters this summer, as dry warm weather has given most a welcome relief from last year’s hardships.
It is very easy for farmers to have a short memory when it comes to the weather; dealing with the weather they have at the moment rather than dwelling on the weather they suffered the months previously. The same could be said for their mental health.
The end of last year and beginning of this year were a difficult time for farmers, both financially and mentally. Many struggled for grass, grain and fodder, whilst a great many lost stock during the extremely challenging winter and spring.
Financial burdens and casualties have an effect on our mental health and wellbeing, whether we like to admit it or not. And when it does, farmers and crofters need to know that there are places they can go to seek help.
Farming and crofting can be extremely isolated and lonely professions, with long stints of speaking to absolutely no one other than the dog or the occasional vet (although in my experience the less the latter is seen, the better). So, it is quite easy to see how the mental wellbeing of someone in our industry could be fragile.
Stress is also a serious factor in a farmer or crofters wellbeing and is something that we need to talk more about. Running your own business is enough of a stress, but when you add in the volatile markets and a reliance on so many things which are out your control (weather, market trends and prices) it is always going to test you, no matter who you are.
Mental wellbeing is an important part of farm health and safety, which is why it is part of this year’s Farm Safety Week campaign.
The important advice I would like to give to any farmer or crofter who is feeling stressed, depressed, suicidal, or just downright low, is to contact the farming charity RSABI.
RSABI are a charity which specialise in helping those who are suffering hardships in Scottish agriculture, both financial and mental, and should be the first place for any farmer or crofter to go if they start to feel the walls closing in.
Our Board of Directors had a presentation from RSABI at our most recent meeting and it was interesting to see how much RSABI can actually do for farmers in need, and how few farmers know the extent of the service. We need to be encouraging farmers to use this invaluable service.
Our industry is one which has a problem with communicating about mental health and that needs to change.
We all need to learn to open up when times are tough and to maybe lend an ear to our neighbour as well. It is easy to ask ‘how are you’ of someone you haven’t seen in a wee while.
For more information about the services available to you through RSABI either call 0300 111 4166 to speak to someone in confidence or visit www.rsabi.org.uk