It’s vital to talk

Trudy Herniman combines her role as a Cornish Mutual Field Insurance Advisor with a passion for helping people with mental health challenges. We find out more about Trudy and why this is so important to her.

As a Field Insurance Advisor, Trudy Herniman spends much of her working day visiting and talking to farmers and other rural business people. Outside work, she also takes every opportunity to listen to and support others.

Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture was launched in 2019 by representatives of organisations including NFU, Farming Community Network (FCN), agricultural societies and retailers. Its first task was to create a pocket-sized z-card to equip those visiting farms with information about what to do if they spot signs of mental ill health. Since then, the team has also started visiting local shows and markets to share what they do and give farmers the opportunity to talk.

At these events, they use the Camerados movement’s approach which advocates the use of ‘public living rooms’. These are described as ‘a no-agenda space, where folk can go to just be themselves alongside others. They are warm welcoming places that offer no services, just the company of fellow humans’. Public living rooms may be pop-ups for a short period of time or open daily, but all should use the Camerados principles which set the tone for an inviting space where all are welcome. As well as volunteering with the Somerset group, Trudy has also used the Camerados approach herself to set up a pop-up public living room in her own village.

Trudy, when did your interest in mental health start?

“Many people know I am passionate about positive mental health and wellbeing, but not everyone knows why.

“In February 1998 my Mum, Carole, ended her own life by suicide, aged 44. Everyone said she was the last person you’d expect it happen to, which I guess just goes to show that someone can be dealing with pressures others don’t know about.”

Tell us about your voluntary work…

“During the first 2020 lockdown, I became a member of the Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture group. It’s a group of local people working in agriculture or associated roles who come together to support the rural community. Calling ourselves Farmerados, we use the six principles of Camerados to set up a pop-up living room at places like local markets and the Dairy Show. People can come and have a cup of tea and a chat.

“It is quite special to be involved and I really enjoy it. We often find when you take the time to ask someone how they are, they open up.”

Why do you feel it is important to talk about mental health in farming?

“In my role working as Field Insurance Advisor, I meet many people in the farming community. The levels of depression within the industry are increasing. Suicide rates, particularly in men under 40, are among the highest in any occupational group.

“With the pressures facing the industry today, it is vital that everyone working within rural communities is encouraged to talk about mental health. We must work together to remove the stigma of tackling issues such as suicide, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

“Cornish Mutual is dedicated to supporting mental health first aid. I am one of a team available to members of staff signposting them to help and support.

“After my mum died, I always said if I can help prevent this happening to someone else I would. Following my involvement in the group and through my training, I feel better equipped to start those conversations.

“The thing to remember is that you are not alone and there are organisations we can direct people to for help and support.”


Sources of help and support

All listed helplines are free and confidential.


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