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Suicide toll on UK farming revealed

Mental health issues are in the spotlight in the industry.
Mental health issues are in the spotlight in the industry.

Shocking statistics highlighted by the Farm Safety Foundation (FSF) show 133 people in UK farming and the associated agricultural trades took their own lives in 2019-20, 31 of them in Scotland.

The figures, published by the Office of National Statistics and the National Records of Scotland, reveal the scale of the mental health issues facing UK agriculture in the week the FSF, also known as Yellow Wellies, launches its annual Mind Your Head campaign.

An FSF survey published to coincide with the campaign found 88% of farmers under 40 rank poor mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing the industry and there are fears the coronavirus pandemic will have increased the mental health issues for farmers and could continue long after the virus has gone.

This year’s Mind Your Head campaign will focus on identifying the risk factors associated with living and working in agriculture, as well as highlighting the support available.

The campaign will also share the stories of people who have lost loved ones to suicide and hear how others have received help.

Meanwhile, the industry’s mental health issues and the impact of the pandemic are to be the focus of a new £190,000 research project led by Reading University.

It will look at the experiences of farmers and the challenges charities have faced in providing support during the past year.

Researchers will also investigate how governments and other agencies can better target support for farmers and rural communities in times of crisis.

One of the team, Professor Matt Lobley of Exeter University, said: “It is often overlooked that farmers are key workers. Understanding to help them become more resilient is important at any time and even more so during the pandemic.”

Anyone working in Scotland’s farming and rural industries can access help from rural charity RSABI. The helpline is 0300 111 4166.

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