Chaplains’ support for wellbeing of isolated farmers is vital in fight to tackle rural loneliness - The Yorkshire Post says

In the five-and-a-half years since The Yorkshire Post launched its award-winning loneliness campaign, there has been much greater recognition that it is not just the elderly most at risk of social isolation.

Chaplains at Thirsk auction mart.

Indeed, almost a fifth of the UK population – more than nine million people – say they are always or often lonely.

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The issue is of particular prominence in agricultural communities, where the rural way of life can be a largely solitary one. But at markets and auction marts across Yorkshire, agricultural chaplains are taking positive steps towards confronting the often isolated existence of the UK farmer.

Services offering mental health support and tackling loneliness can be few and far between in rural communities.

As well as working to make help that is available more widely known amongst the farming community, the chaplains are building relationships with farmers and their families, providing them with someone to talk to in a place where they regularly attend. And their support could not come soon enough.

As the issue of loneliness has both climbed the political ladder and risen in public consciousness – in a period that has also seen a greater awareness around mental health – its adverse impact on both physical health and emotional wellbeing has become better understood.

Research suggests lonely individuals are more prone to depression, at greater risk of cognitive decline and have an increased likelihood of developing heart disease.

Clearly, schemes to tackle loneliness and offer support to those experiencing stress and mental health conditions are vitally important and, in rural communities, where services can be few and far between, their impact must never be underestimated.