To help farmers address the potential psychological effects of the coronavirus pandemic, The Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture Group has been formed.

Farmer support groups have teamed up with mental health professional, Becky Wright (founder of New Leaf) to create the group and to provide resources for those visiting farms to help support with mental health issues.

Group founder, Becky says: “Farming is one of the loneliest industries in which to work.

"With the added financial and political challenges, most of which cannot be influenced by the farmer, it is no wonder that the industry experiences one of the highest levels of poor mental health.

"We hope that this group, our first project, and others that will follow, will provide some tools to support those closest to the farmers to seek the right help and guidance.”

South West Farmer:

Becky initiated The Somerset Mental Health Group in Agriculture following a similar project that she had developed specifically for the construction industry. The idea is that those visiting farms will have resources available to them to be able to communicate with farmers about mental health, or to be able to signpost them to places of support.

Read more: Sources of help and advice for south west farmers during Covid-19 crisis

One of the group’s members, NFU’s Somerset county advisor, Lydia Cox commented: “We need to get the messages out as far and as wide as we can, so while I can get the information out to our NFU members, we are looking for anyone or any other organisation who has access to the farming community to get in touch with us, to help us to help them.”

South West Farmer:

The agriculture group includes representatives from a range of support organisations who have come together with the sole aim of supporting the farming community through their challenges, and are developing a range of tools to support those within the farming community to identify and support farmers who may be struggling to cope with the vagaries of farming life and whose mental health is deteriorating.

“We all need to take a moment to consider our health and wellbeing,” says Lorna Filby, head of organisational safety and wellbeing at Mole Valley Farmers.

“Mole Valley Farmers are pleased to be working with The Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture Group as they launch their Mental Health in Farming guidance. Local initiatives such as this are so vital; they provide help and support to farmers or agricultural workers who may be struggling and not know where to turn.”

South West Farmer:

The first project developed by the group is an easy-to-read pocket-sized Z-card information flyer that sets out some of the symptoms of mental health difficulties and what to look out for in a family member, colleague or friend. It also contains information on who can help – the Farming Community Network (FCN), the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and the Samaritans.

The Z-cards will be distributed by the group’s stakeholders as well as through the farming intermediaries such as accountants, livestock auctioneers and agriculture merchants, and through memberships of the NFU, the Royal Bath & West Society and the Bristol Corn & Feed Trade Association, each of which has made a financial contribution to the project.