Something we can all agree on, is that 2020 was a tough year filled with unexpected challenges.
Recently we collaborated on a study conducted by the School of Psychology NTSAg at the University of Aberdeen into 182 Scottish farming and rural participants. The study revealed that a predominant issue in mental health described by farmers was social separation from family and friends due to the geographic isolation of farms, and long hours of lone working: Farmers also described strain caused by financial worries, including concerns about how they will pay their bills and provide for their families. A predominant concern which adds to financial stress is low, fluctuating and uncertain prices for products.
Other aspects of rural life which have an adverse impact on mental well-being included social isolation. As one respondent said:
“Loneliness – not seeing other people. Not having access to clubs and social events to meet new people. Too much time with your own thoughts.”
In the study which you can READ HERE, farmers also shared their awareness of the various types of mental health support available to them, and while 14.5% of farmers did not know of any mental health support services they could access, a very encouraging 41% would confidently turn to RSABI for help…
Scotland’s rural support charity RSABI provides emotional, practical and financial support to individuals and their families across the agricultural sector in Scotland including farming and crofting. The charity has a heritage that goes back to 1897 when it came into being to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and in recognition of the deep agricultural depression at the time.
The new Institution’s aim was to help elderly, infirm, distressed and disabled Scottish tenant farmers and their dependants. Over many years, the charity evolved and, through the hard work of a band of local collectors throughout Scotland and the generosity of many supporters, has been able to help more people in need. Today, RSABI is a thoroughly modern charity providing financial and practical support and friendship to over 600 individuals and their families across a range of agricultural occupations.
Sophie Marsh spoke to Mags Granger, Welfare Manager at RSABI, to find out how they have adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
“2020 has been an interesting year for RSABI. Before COVID, we had just launched a call out service which has really come into its own this past year. The service has been regularly taken up, not just by those who are isolated, but also people who are struggling with their mental wellbeing. The call out service has really been a benefit to those struggling this past year and has helped the charity itself adapt to the changes”.
RSABI’s call out service is available 365 days of the year and offers emotional support to the lonely and vulnerable. Mags continues: “People can sometimes find it hard to have the courage to call up and admit that they need help, but they always appreciate a call back”. Asking for help can be daunting for some people but starting the conversation can be the first step on that journey to get the help they need.
“Lockdown doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon, so it’s looking like the call out service will continue to be used throughout 2021. With the initial ease of lockdown people started to feel more positive, but, as we are return to a lockdown situation people may start to feel more isolated’.
RSABI also has a volunteer service that has proved invaluable as it means that they can grow the team and provide more call outs. Another useful tool is their counselling service which was introduced just over a year ago providing support for those struggling with their mental wellbeing and is proving an extremely useful tool to have ready.
The impact of this pandemic, together with the uncertainty and disruptions of the past year has made life difficult for some farmers and crofters, and it’s incredibly encouraging to hear that rural support charities like RSABI have adapted to this ‘new normal’, have tailored their services and are continuing to provide help, support and guidance to those living and working in Scotland’s agricultural industry.
If you or someone you know needs help, and if you are in Scotland please contact RSABI free on 0300 111 4166 or visit www.rsabi.org.uk to learn more.