Farm charities’ wellbeing support ‘completely crucial’ ahead of Brexit changes

Sally Conner, regional manager of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.
Sally Conner, regional manager of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.
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Seeking help to alleviate the stresses and strains of farming life does not amount to failure, agricultural charity manager Sally Conner said.

Despite problems mounting up at home in an increasingly isolated vocation, a misplaced sense of pride is leaving too many farmers suffering in silence, she said.

Helen Benson, regional co-ordinator of The Farming Community Network.

Helen Benson, regional co-ordinator of The Farming Community Network.

Ms Conner is the regional manager of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution in Yorkshire. Her welfare officers often find that farmers’ problems run deeper when they visit farms to help families in financial difficulties.

“Financial problems cause an awful lot of stress and anxiety. Often you will go and see someone and think they are fine until you discover that they are not,” she said.

“It’s that awful thing of pride despite the anxiety they are suffering because they don’t want to speak to anyone. It’s how we get up from that and speak to farmers that are older. People look at themselves as failures when actually they are survivors.”

Read more in a special series of reports on mental health in farming here

Like every industry, uncertainty persists in farming as a result of Britain’s unclear policy direction post-Brexit. The future trading relationship with the EU bloc - British agriculture’s biggest customer - is seen as being a particularly pivotal issue.

Ms Conner believes farming charities have a “completely crucial” role to play as a new era of domestic farm policy changes the industry.

“Knowing there is a safety net there is very reassuring,” she said.

Helen Benson, the regional co-ordinator of The Farming Community Network, added: “If people need professional support, if they need to go to a doctor, if they need mental health services, we are not there to replace that but we are there to walk alongside.

“The important message is that there is someone out there who cares about you.”

The FCN operates a helpline for farming families on 03000 111 999. RABI also has a helpline, call 0808 281 9490.

Read more in a special series of reports on mental health in farming here