With mounting pressures facing people in the farming sector, RABI has seen greater demand for its services. For poultry producers, overriding concerns about surging input costs have been intensified by the threat of avian influenza this year.
Last year, RABI’s Big Farming Survey indicated that poor mental wellbeing is a fundamental issue amongst farmers in England and Wales. Earlier this year, evidence from the 1.5 million data points garnered through this research, lead to the introduction of new support services from the charity.
RABI’s head of partnerships, Suzy Deeley, who has family links with poultry farming, explains how the charity is adapting to meet the changing needs of farming people and help remove the barriers around talking about mental health.
“Our ground-breaking Big Farming Survey shone a light on the immense scale of pressures and stresses that farmers face, and for the first time evidenced the strong link between the financial health of farming businesses and the wellbeing of the farmers and their families operating them,” says Ms Deeley.
“The survey findings confirmed that over a third of farming people in England and Wales are probably or possibly depressed, with livestock farmers amongst those most at risk of poor mental wellbeing.”
The challenges confronting poultry producers
“The risk of disease outbreak, on top of rising input costs, payment and policy changes and labour challenges, continues to bring increased uncertainty for poultry producers. Inevitably, these factors are having a detrimental effect on farmer’s mental health in the sector,” Ms Deeley explains.
“Within the poultry sector, 40% of our survey respondents named regulation, compliance and inspection as one of the most important stressors, with the Covid-19 pandemic and the future of their farm cited as two other key concerns..
“If a farming business is facing increased financial risk, it’s very unlikely that a farmer’s wellbeing won’t be impacted negatively,” she continues.
In response to the Big Farming Survey findings, RABI launched professionally-led support services in January this year, including free, confidential in-person counselling.
“To complement our existing support, RABI is committed to developing services which are focused on providing early, preventative wellbeing support for farming people. A mix of our highly trained and experienced team and partnerships with specialist service providers, means we can provide access to localised professional support, that is tailored to individuals.
“When we launched our in-person counselling service earlier in the year, we endeavoured to make the referrals process as straight forward and comfortable as possible. The first step in improving farmer wellbeing is to have that important initial conversation, which is why we’re encouraging and empowering people to reach out for support earlier.”
A poultry farmer’s perspective
Roger* from Shropshire, who prefers to remain anonymous, runs a free range egg business and has experienced first-hand some of the pressures highlighted.
“If any poultry farmers are feeling under pressure, there is always support out there. It always helps to get another perspective on the challenges you’re facing. On our farm, sharing the workload amongst the family is so important. Not only does it help to share the burden of stress, but it also means we can take it in turns to have time off.
“Giving your mind a couple of hours break from the farm workload, chatting to a mate and sharing the battles you face, helps to air out your problems and get them off your chest. If anyone is wondering where to go to, bottling things up, don’t leave it too late. When you talk about things, it puts your problems in perspective and can be a big help.”
*Roger is a pseudonym
If you, or anyone you know could benefit from talking to a professional, support is available. The first step is to call RABI’s free, confidential 24/7 helpline on 0800 188 4444.
Support is also available via RABI’s free online wellbeing platform.