Why it’s time for rural communities to think about mental health

Members of the CLA’s mental health first aiders group describe the potential mental health challenges for rural communities and signpost places to reach out to for advice
Farmer leading the sheep with lamb

Working in rural and agricultural jobs is seen by many as the “rural idyll" – a healthy lifestyle with plenty of fresh air and exercise. However, farming and rural businesses can be hard work, isolating and stressful.

The figures

Did you know that people in rural areas of England and Wales are more likely to experience mental health problems than people in urban areas?

A 2021 Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) survey of more than 15,000 people found that 36% of people in rural areas had mental health wellbeing scores that were significantly lower than the rest of the population, which is a cause for concern.

The survey revealed concerning levels of anxiety within rural areas. Nearly half (47%) of respondents reported suffering from anxiety, with 18% struggling with moderate or severe levels. This is significantly higher than the national average.

Additionally, 19% of respondents knew someone who had attempted suicide, highlighting the devastating impact mental health can have on rural communities. In fact, a farmer dies from suicide every week according to the Farm Safety Foundation, a stark reminder of the urgent need to address mental health challenges in the rural sector.

Erasing the stigma

While discussions about mental health are gaining traction nationally, it's vital to acknowledge the varied understandings and potential stigma attached to the term, particularly in rural communities.

Professionals like Gareth Davies, CEO of Tir Dewi, emphasise this sensitivity. He recounts a conversation with a farmer which steered towards possible struggles with mental health. The discussion was then met with confusion and resistance over the term ‘mental’, a phrase that to many has a negative connotation.

Gareth points out that addressing the root causes of stress within rural settings, such as financial pressures and unpredictable weather, can be a more relatable and less stigmatising way to support individuals.

Help is at hand

Despite the challenges, hope does exist. Numerous organisations are dedicated to providing help and support. If you're experiencing difficulties or recognise these signs in someone you know, remember you're not alone. Reaching out to friends, family, healthcare professionals, or organisations like Tir Dewi, Yana, or The Farming Community Network (FCN) can be the first step towards a brighter future.

Tir Dewi (Wales) – website: - tirdewi.wales email: info@tirdewi.co.uk, tel: 0800 1214722

Yana – website: - yanahelp.org, email: helpline@yanahelp.org, tel: 0300 3230400

FCN – website: - fcn.org.uk, farmwell.org.uk and farmwell.wales , email: help@fcn.org.uk, tel: 03000 111999

RABI – website: - www.rabi.org.uk, email: help@rabi.org.uk, tel: 0800 188444

Working with Kooth and Qwell, RABI have created an online mental health wellbeing community for young people aged 11 to 17, www.kooth.com/rabi, and www.qwell.io/rabi for over 18’s. These provide opportunities to join online discussion boards, chat to team members and read helpful articles and journals.