A new campaign launched by the Samaritans urging men in rural communities not to suffer in silence is backed by farming charities

A new campaign aimed at encouraging men in rural communities to seek help when they are struggling with mental health issues has been launched by the Samaritans.

The Real People, Real Stories campaign, which will run on the charity’s website and social media channels, features the experiences of men who have struggled with mental health and the difference speaking to someone can make.

Supported by the Farming Community Network (FCN) and NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, the campaign comes after new research released by the Samaritans showed nearly half of men aged from 20 to 59 in rural communities had experienced feelings of anxiety during the coronavirus lockdown.

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A total of 54 per cent of the men also said they were feeling worried or anxious as restrictions continued to ease.

David Moyles (right) who launched the Samaritans Rural Support Initiative pictured with volunteer Steve Angle.

But the figures also showed about a third of the men in that age bracket said talking to others had helped, which the charity said showed the importance of seeking support.

A national charity, the Samaritans last year launched the Rural Support Initiative through its York branch.

Led by former soldier David Moyles, the aim of the initiative is to support those in rural and farming communities who can often feel as if they are struggling alone.

Samaritans’ executive director of external affairs, Paul McDonald, said problems had been heightened by the recent Covid-19 lockdown.

The national farming charity is supporting the Real People, Real Stories campaign.

He added: “This pandemic has brought unexpected change and uncertainty, which will have a lasting impact on everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.

“We know less well off, middle-aged men have remained the highest risk group for suicide in the UK for decades and that the restrictions put in place during lockdown such as isolation and disconnection will have exacerbated problems for these men.”

The farming charity FCN, which is also a national organisation, works with the Samaritans Rural Support Initiative.

Its chief executive officer, Dr Jude McCann, said farming was an industry where stress can have a negative impact on well-being, and added: “Unfortunately, loneliness, depression and anxiety are recognised as common issues and accessing support can be a challenge.

“People who work on farms are used to operating in isolation, but if they are experiencing challenges or displaying changes in their behaviour or temperament, there may be no one around to notice or confide in. It’s important that farmers make the time to look after themselves, their family and their staff.”

Dr McCann said the majority of calls to FCN during the Covid-19 lockdown have been stress- related, with the virus playing a significant role in exacerbating farmers’ concerns.

“In sharing real-life examples of real men struggling to cope, the campaign helps to normalise conversations and encourage men to seek help,” he said.

FCN County Co-ordinator for Yorkshire, Lisa Cardy said: “For farmers throughout Yorkshire there is nothing wrong or shameful about not being able to cope when assailed by such a multitude of different pressures. It is a sign of strength not weakness to recognise when you need help. Help is out there; just a phone call away.”

Support offered by the Samaritans is described by Lindsay Sinclair, the group chief executive at NFU Mutual, as “vital” at this challenging time.

“Our members have told us that loneliness, the strain of juggling home, work and financial pressures are impacting every inch of their lives leading to feelings of anxiety and fear,” she said.