'It's so important to talk': Farmers' mental health highlighted in campaign

Leading figures within the agricultural sector in the south of Scotland have been highlighting the issue of mental health among farmers and other rural workers.  

This has been prompted in part by coronavirus restrictions at many livestock sales and the cancellation of country shows, which has curtailed social interactions between farmers who often work in isolation.

Judith Cowie, from Wallets Marts in Castle Douglas, said: "Everybody enjoys getting away to a show and when they can't necessarily do that just now, it just sort of removes them and removes that contact they have with other people.  

"It can be difficult because everybody faces the same problems. It's easy to think that it's just affecting you, but when you come out and talk to other people you realise that they have exactly the same problems."

Recently the RSABI - a charity dedicated to the welfare of Agricultural workers - ran a nationwide campaign that re-enforced the message for famers to keep talking and encouraged them to get on the phone to five colleagues that they would normally meet at a show or a mart.  

CEO of RSABI, Nina Clancy, said: "When you're on a farm on your own and you have an lot to do, you come home you eat and the same thing happens the next day - things can get on top of you, and if you add bad weather to that, or a tractor breakdown or a family accident or bereavement, it can easily spiral downwards. That's why it's so important to talk to people."

"There's still an awful lot of people out there who would try to bottle it up and carry on regardless, but that is really quite dangerous. It's always better to share your problems. 

"At least one farmer takes their own life a week in the UK, which is a horrible statistic and one that we want to change."

Farmers' marts have been unable to open since the coronavirus lockdown. Credit: ITV News

The campaign has been backed by major figures in the agricultural community, like NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick.  

Andrew said: "The isolation it's definitely a big part of what we do as our job, but we get the opportunities to get away from it, but when you're working on your own you're only thinking what's going on in your head all the time.  

"I must admit, as an industry, I don't think we share our feelings often enough. There's a lot of pressure, a lot of stress on us and we are trying to run businesses, and we've got ourselves and maybe our closest family there and we don't want to make them think that we're suffering from stresses and pressures of that business or industry."

The countryside may seem like an idyllic place to work -  but with it comes very particular stresses, but its hoped that simple conversation can be a first step to better wellbeing among our rural workers.

  • More information and support can be found on the RSABI website or via their telephone helpline 0300 111 4166.