Farming charities RABI and RSABI stressed to the sector the importance of working together to normalise the conversation around mental health in farming at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) yesterday (6 January).
Collaborating on a presentation for OFC 2022, the two charities are keen to encourage everyone working across agriculture to play their part to help break the stigma attached to talking about our mental wellbeing.
They said collective action is needed to ensure that existing invisible barriers, which can make reaching out for support feel like a weakness rather than a strength are removed, and encourage more farming people to reach out for support before challenges become crises.
“The 2022 conference theme is ‘Routes to Resilience’, and whilst the findings from RABI’s Big Farming Survey identified that farming people are resilient, the continued expectation of being strong, healthy and virtually invincible simply isn’t realistic,” said Suzy Deeley, RABI’s head of partnerships.
“We all have the capacity to be affected by difficulties and challenges, and we are grateful to the OFC for providing a really valuable platform for us to connect with opinion leaders across the sector and highlight the importance of empowering farming people with the tools and services they need to move forward positively.
“The findings from RABI’s Big Farming Survey have helped RABI to identify the priorities for action, now the sector must work collaboratively to create better futures for farming communities,” she said.
The success of RSABI’s Keep Talking campaign has demonstrated the power of a collective approach to improving wellbeing for farming people, and this message is still vitally important, said RSABI chief executive, Nina Clancy.
“Everyone in the agricultural community can play a part in helping to tackle wellbeing issues in the industry. Staying connected with friends, family and neighbours is so important, as is encouraging people to reach out for help instead of soldiering on regardless.
“Working with organisations, businesses and individuals in the industry to help promote this message, and to encourage people to come forward for support, is crucial.”
Featured in the presentation were Welsh farmer, Ffion Hooson from Denbighshire, and OFC director and livestock farmer Will Evans, who shared the personal challenges they have faced.
“As a farmer who has struggled with mental health issues, I understand and empathise with the challenges each and every one of us is prone to experiencing,” Evans said.
“Farming is all encompassing and that can be overwhelming at times. This is why we must all work together to normalise asking for support as poor mental health can affect anyone – young or old.”
“We know there is a real appetite to address the challenges facing our sector together. This video highlights how important it is that farming people feel confident to talk about the pressures they face,” Deeley concluded.