The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has highlighted an array of issues facing the farming community, which if left unaddressed could be the perfect storm for farmers' mental health.
In a virtual meeting with Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, Union officials discussed how the combination of Brexit uncertainty, Covid-19 and proposed new farming policies are putting immense pressure on farmers and their mental health.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said:
"We had a very good meeting with Eluned Morgan and we raised many pertinent issues which play on our farmers’ mind.
As we all know the problems on farms are plentiful and some can be addressed by talking about them, others however require the Welsh government to re-evaluate their current and future agricultural policies.
Roberts said that the imminent danger of substandard imports arising due to new trade deals, new subsidy schemes which fail to specifically address economic prosperity for rural communities, the lack of preparation for a no-deal scenario at Welsh ports and in other areas.
Other concerns include the rapid impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global supply chains and also the increased use of public access which has caused a broad range of problems for our members, all add to the perfect storm that is brewing.
'Mental health in mind'
"With mental health in mind, and as the minister's remit includes Well-being and the Welsh Language, it was a good opportunity to emphasise that the Welsh government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals focus almost exclusively on environmental outcomes.
These fail to encompass wider Welsh goals and objectives, including those defined in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015, such as language, economic prosperity and thriving rural communities.
"This and other issues all have negative impacts not just on our economy but also the mental well-being of our farmers."
Roberts added that he acknowledges the good work already being done by the Welsh government in terms of their engagement with mental health charities and the Silver Cloud service - all of which has helped the industry to feel a little better supported.
"There are already some very good initiatives out there and we can’t underestimate the crucial role our mental health charities play in our rural communities.
However, we have used the opportunity today again to ask the minister to consider that measures are put in place that allow direct access to mental health services, which do not require GP referral but to also address the policy issues that are often a root cause for poor mental health.
"We look forward to continuing in our close working relationship with the minister and the Welsh government and are hopeful that together we can overcome many of the problems discussed today."
Eluned Morgan said:
"The Welsh government is committed to supporting our farming and rural communities, balancing our economy whilst doing what we must to protect our fragile environment.
As December 31 approaches, the UK government must provide clarity over our future trading arrangements that can immediately ease the pressures our farming communities face.
"Promoting positive mental health is a matter for us all, and I’m pleased to hear how the FUW has been working with its members to encourage a frank and open dialogue on this issue.
"Help and support is available. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, send a text or visit some of the online services available if you’re not feeling yourself. There is no stigma in feeling down," she concluded.