Change is a fact of life and R.A.B.I has a responsibility to adapt with the times too. That’s why we are currently looking to develop support schemes that address the emotional and practical needs of farming people, as well as the financial ones. The goal for us as an organisation is to build closer relationships with more people, keep an open dialogue going with them and offer fully-rounded support packages.
R.A.B.I has been helping farmers since 1860 – in fact we celebrated our 160th anniversary this February. The world was certainly a very different place 160 years ago. Abraham Lincoln was President of the USA, whilst Queen Victoria sat on the throne here. The Irish potato famine was still relatively fresh in the minds of many and farming pioneers were a few years away from making commercial tractors and combine harvesters widely available.
Today, we are receiving more and more calls from working people seeking our help. Their needs are often complex; their problems not solvable by money alone.
Consequently, we are looking to undertake a major piece of research work that helps us better understand what farmers are going through and feeling. Then, we want to begin the process of determining what our service structure needs to look like in a rapidly changing world. There’s lots to consider and changes won’t happen overnight. However, going forward, providing more mental health support to people in the farming sector is a priority.
We are currently liaising with a specialist third-party provider to offer easy online access to approved and qualified counsellors, including one-to-one online consultations, that are available free at the point of use, 365 days a year. This means farmers will have online access to counsellors – hopefully from later this year – at the press of a button.
Of course, providing financial grants will remain at the core of what we do. In 2019, we gave out £2.9m to more than 1,350 individuals / families. This represents a significant increase on the £2.2m we gave out in 2018.
In 2019, grants of around £813k went to working families, compared to £438k the previous year. The 2019 figures included emergency grants of £75k to 25 farmers affected by the Tomlinson’s Dairy Collapse and £61k to 22 families affected by flooding in the autumn.
For some people, tackling financial problems can relieve a lot of the stresses and anxieties they are going through.
Farming is a 24/7 business and many in the industry work very long hours in isolation in remote, rural areas. On top of that, there will always be factors that can quickly cause stress and anxiety to escalate such as market fluctuations, poor harvests, bad weather and animal disease. The term ‘mental health’ covers a huge and complicated landscape. Mental health is no different to physical health in that it can fluctuate from day to day.
We want to provide people with the tools and support needed to maintain positive mental health, rather than looking for quick fixes to problems as they arise. Farmers and their families need more safe spaces where they can talk freely and confidentially about their concerns, problems and fears.
This article was written as part of the #MindYourHead campaign by the Farm Safety Foundation. Visit www.yellowwellies.org for more information.