'It can feel very lonely:' Campaigners call for better mental health services for rural communities

ITV Calendar News reporter Katie Oscroft on the "invisible problem" that lies behind the beautiful and peaceful views

Campaigners have called for more mental health support for people living in rural communities amid higher-than-average rates of depression and suicide remote areas.

Farming and other agriculture-related professions face particular mental health challenges, with some arguing the low visibility of mental health services in these communities leads to a culture of self-reliance which can prevent people from seeking support early.

One farmer a week in the UK dies by suicide, according to the Farm Safety Foundation, while research by Edinburgh University has shown that the rate of suicide in the veterinary profession is at least three times that of the general population. Figures from the Farm Safety Foundation, found 81% of farmers under 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today and 92% believe that promoting good mental health is “crucial” if lives are to be saved and farmers kept safe.

Those living rural communities have less access to key services, with mental health support often concentrated in areas of high population, while limited public transports makes access to services that do exist in rural and remote communities harder.

"Everyone just has this real nature to just carry on" - Victoria Wright on how people in rural communities may not seek help for mental health issues when they need to

Retford-based equestrian Matthew Wright took his own life in February.

He set up Riders Minds with his wife Victoria to help others in the equestrian world who are struggling with their mental health.

Victoria says the rural community's "just carry on" attitude can prevent people from seeking help when they need it.

"Out in the countryside, a lot of the time there's animals, there's livestock and things attached to it, and that's not nine to five, it can start to feel very lonely for people.

"And I think everyone just has this real nature to just carry on. It's fine. Whatever the weather, whatever is happening, just keep carrying on. I think that it does take its toll on people, it really does."

Victoria Wright on how her and her husband, Matthew, started Riders Minds to help others affected by mental health issues

Matthew suffered with mental health problems for years, Victoria says. He eventually started to speak opening about his mental health, and once he started sharing his story, people would come to him about their own experiences.

The couple started Riders Minds in response.

"We'd write, he put blogs on and started to talk quite openly to people about it. And then people came forward to him and said that they suffered as well and he said, 'the only way that anyone's ever going to talk about stuff or recover from things is if we know people share their own stories if we there's got to be a helpline. There's got to be something we can do.'

The  Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is embarking on a wide-ranging inquiry into rural mental health as improving the overall quality of mental health provision becomes an increasing priority for the government and the NHS. 

The NHS Long Term Plan, published on 7 January 2019 sets out the NHS’s aim to advancing mental health equalities, and commits it to providing an additional 380,000 people per year with access to adult psychological therapies by 2023/24.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is asking for submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. The closing date is Friday 7 January 2022.

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Papyrus offer support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am – midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to pat@papyrus-uk.org

  • Rethink Mental Illness offer practical advice and information for anyone affected by mental health problems on a wide range of topics including treatment, support and care. Phone 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm) or visit rethink.org

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff onlineNo matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.

If you have an emergency and a life is in danger, contact the emergency services on 999.