‘Many farmers are suffering in silence’ – FUW

On the eve of World Mental Health day (Friday, October 9), the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) hosted a virtual All Wales Mental Health conference, which explored the wider context of poor mental health in rural communities.

They also discussed what steps need to be taken by the government, decision makers and policy shapers to address the situation, especially as Covid-19 is likely to put further pressure, not just on people’s mental but also their finances.

The event was also supported by the Welsh government’s Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, and New Zealand farmer and mental health champion Doug Avery through video message.

Speaking after the event, FUW president Glyn Roberts said:

“We made a commitment at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017 to do everything we can to help break the stigma that still prevents farmers from speaking about their mental health and seeking the help they often desperately need and deserve.

The figures sadly speak for themselves, with one farmer a week dying by suicide and many more suffering in silence.

“I would like to thank all the speakers and chairs, and of course those who joined us for the day as part of the audience, to keep this conversation going and establish an action plan of things that can be done at Welsh government level to help those who are suffering in the future.”

‘Farmers have different requirements’

Roberts added that the FUW has written to the Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, to outline some of the key points which were raised during the conference.

“A point that was made repeatedly during the event was that farmers must be considered as a group of people who have different requirements and needs when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing.

Going forward we must put a strategy in place that when a farmer accesses help for their poor mental health through their GP, they do not get treated with the blanket approach that is currently policy.

“It is worth highlighting, that through the very nature of farming, a job that requires a farmer to be at work 365 days a year, the suggestions of taking a few weeks off work is not going to be helpful; and as the second option for many GP’s is to follow this up with medication, it must also be recognised that this is not the answer for every individual.”

The conference also highlighted that the route to mental health support through a GP is not always the most straightforward of routes and can often take a very long time before the person has access to the support they need.

“We have therefore asked the minister to consider that in every local authority in Wales, measures are put in place that allow direct access to mental health services, which do not require GP referral,” he concluded.