Farmers’ Union of Wales asks ‘how are you doing?’ ahead of virtual Royal Welsh Show

The Farmers’ Union of Wales made a commitment at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017 to keep the spotlight on mental health issues for as long as it remains a problem in rural communities. Approaching the fourth year of awareness raising and doing everything it takes to help break the stigma, the Union is keeping the conversation going – online.

FUW deputy president Ian Rickman said: “Under normal circumstances we would have held a seminar at the Royal Welsh Show, but given the circumstances – the conversation is moving online. We will be hosting a virtual seminar, where we explore what has changed, how far we have come and what issues still remain. I hope many of you will be joining us on the night to discuss the issue and share your experiences.”

Titled ‘Mental Health- how are you doing?’, the event, as part of the virtual Royal Welsh Show, is screened on Thursday 23 July at 7pm.

Joining the panel are Emma Picton-Jones, founder of the DPJ Foundation, David Williams, Wales Regional Director for the Farming Community Network, Gareth Davies,Chief Executive Office, Tir Dewi and Suzy Deeley, Corporate Partnership Manager at RABI.

Speaking about the mental health situation in rural communities ahead of the event, David Williams, Wales Regional Director, Farming Community Network said: “Conversations around mental health are challenging, and in the farming community in particular, it can be especially difficult to open up about what you may be experiencing. Many of the common signs of mental ill-health can be missed when farmers are spending significant periods of time alone working and for long hours of the day.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, FCN has seen a large amount of stress-related calls to our Helpline, with many having a mental wellbeing implication. Concerns around financial stability, market uncertainty, managing change and a wide range of other issues can all have a negative impact on mental health.

“Thankfully, campaigns to raise awareness of mental health in farming help to reduce stigma and encourage farmers to open up about their experiences. Through platforms such as social media we are seeing many productive and positive conversations around mental health. While much progress has been made, more work still needs to be done to support farmers who are going through difficult times and to let them know that it’s ‘OK to not be OK’.

“FCN’s free, confidential national Helpline (03000 111 999) is open every day of the year between 7am – 11pm. If you are feeling lonely, depressed or just need to speak to someone about what you are going through, our friendly volunteers are happy to help.”

Gareth Davies,Chief Executive Officer at Tir Dewi, said: “In the middle of February, Storm Dennis followed Storm Ciara leaving damage and flooding across much of Wales.  It was another worry added on top of the uncertainty of Brexit and the changes to the Basic Payment Scheme.

“No one saw Coronavirus coming!  Much of the population of the UK has had a taste of lock-down and there is a lot of talk around how this has impacted the mental wellbeing of those placed into isolation.

“Isolation is the norm to many farmers who also have to deal with the aftermath of storms, uncertainty of markets and future income and, now, the knock-on effects of global pandemics too.  Often all alone.  This is not healthy and we all need to be aware of it and how we can help.”

Emma Picton-Jones, founder of the DPJ Foundation said: “The situation at the moment is very much ‘unknown territory’. Mental health has been an issue in the sector for a long time but we are facing unprecedented times and with that brings uncertainty which is never helpful when it comes to mental health issues. Thankfully in Wales there is support available and we need to ensure that those who need it know how to access it.”

Suzy Deeley,Corporate Partnership Manager, R.A.B.I., said : “The challenging nature of farming today means that many who contact us for help not only face financial or practical issues, but are also experiencing poor mental health.

“Whilst R.A.B.I is not a mental health charity, all of our service delivery team receive Mental Health First Aid training so that they can recognise the signs of poor mental health and help to connect our service users with the specialist mental health support that they need.

“These are already difficult times for many farming people and the increased isolation and stress imposed by the pandemic will certainly make things more challenging for those who are experiencing mental health issues, but there is help available.”

To join the seminar, please register here: