The FUW made a commitment at the Royal Welsh Show in 2 0 1 7 to keep the spotlight on mental health issues for as long as it remains a problem in our rural communities. We are now approaching the fourth year of awareness raising and doing everything we can to help break the stigma, so once again, together with the leading farming charities in Wales – we took a look at what has changed, how far we have come and what issues still remain
Whilst some progress has been made in raising awareness, what has changed over the last 1 0 years when it comes to mental health? How many people are now affected, that we know of, compared to 1 0 years ago?
Emma Picton-Jones, founder of the DPJ
Foundation said: “Mental health is only just starting to be recognised. In the 1 9 8 0 s people started to recognise that it was a medical issue that needed to be looked at. A lot of research has been done in recent years and looking at it statistically, there are a lot more mental health issues now than there have ever been before. But is that because we’re now more aware of it, that we’re far more understanding of it and that we recognise it far more now than we did before?
“Over the last 1 0 years things have changed dramatically, as wonderful as it is being online, it is very different from being face to face with people. We moved very quickly into a world where we’re run by social media and we’re living very isolated lives. Things that years ago would have been done in large groups of people are now quite easily done by 1 or 2 people.
“We are leading very different lives to what we did 1 0 years ago. There has been such a rapid change and we’re not meant for that. We’re not meant to live isolated lives, we’re not meant to do everything through technology, as human beings we are meant to be in groups and live in packs with people and communicate and socialise. Our circumstances have got a lot to play in this in how our mental health is affected.
“The social aspect of agriculture has changed the sad news of some agriculture marts closing with some of them getting no entries at all during the week. People are just not going to markets the way they used to with a lot of things being done privately. So, I’m not sure if things have got worse or if we are just more aware of the problems than before.”
David Williams, Wales Regional Director
for the Farming Community Network, added: “Statistics have been put out there saying that a quarter of the population suffer from mental health issues at some time in their lives. There is much more awareness of the mental health issues in society at large and particularly in the agriculture sector.
“Farmers have always been the kind of people who just get on with stuff, rather than sharing the problems they might have. We are ironically much more connected than we used to be but in many ways more alone. Whether it’s a worse problem or just more highlighted is something we don’t know.
“What we are also finding is that there are more organisations now designed to support people through mental health issues that are non‐NHS. If you’ve ever tried to get support through the NHS it’s very difficult to get help in a reasonable period of time. The waiting list is so long. What we need to ensure as a group of people, is to develop these facilities ourselves and not worry about what we think ought to be happening.
“You can talk to people who you think have no issue at all with their mental health, but when you delve deeper into it there are a lot of people hurting out there who need our support.”
But have we come far enough to deal with this issue?
Gareth Davies, Chief Executive Officer, Tir
Dewi said: “There is a huge proportion of those who are struggling with their mental health who still don’t recognise they have an issue ‐ and that’s step 1 . Farmers will see it as the normal stresses of the job, because it’s a very intensive, long job.
“We conducted a survey recently in Powys and 5 1 % of farmers saw mental health as an issue affecting them. If that was a car parts factory in Bridgend or a call centre in Swansea there would be an outrage. But because it’s farmers, who are a group of people who are naturally isolated and known for just getting on with it, there seems to be little said.
“The second step, when you recognise that you have a mental health issue, is asking for help. And that is huge. Again, our survey showed that 6 7 % of farmers might not ask for help because of embarrassment, the risk of shame, or their reputation. That’s two‐thirds of farmers who might not ask for help and 5 8 % said they don’t know what help is available!
“We have an awful lot of work to do in raising awareness of who we are, what we’re able to do and that there is help out there. And that’s help in English and Welsh. Because another barrier is that people think there isn’t any provision in Welsh. Between us we have a lot of work to do to show farmers that we are here for them and that there is help.”
To find out more about mental health and what you can do to help yourself and others , listen to our recent seminar again here: www.fuw.org.uk/en/rwas‐seminars