Suzie Wilkinson, Coordinator of the Farming Community Network in Somerset, says farmers face unique challenges, but help is out there to help you tackle stress or depression.
The Farming Community Network (FCN) has been working with farming families in Somerset since 1995. The national organisation was set up when the Agricultural Chaplains, based at Stoneleigh, recognised the increasing need for an organisation which could offer pastoral support and practical help to farmers, farm workers and their families. Many problems occurring in farming communities are only relevant to them, so they felt it vital to have volunteers with farming experience who really understood their concerns, and could speak their own language.
The unique challenges facing farmers
FCN is aware that life can be tough on the farm for all the family, especially at the moment where there is so much uncertainty about our futures.
Farming is a unique way of life because so often everything is tied up in the farm. It is your livelihood and business, your daily work routine, your identity, your lifestyle and very often your social circle. But it can also be very lonely and isolating as you spend hours working on your own. You may even occasionally feel pushed away from society. There is an inability to switch off because you can never get away. Home is your office so not necessarily a place to relax and unwind, which is so important for good mental and physical health.
The stress caused by TB restrictions, late passports, farm visits, late farm payments, increasing costs and lower prices, farm inspections and bureaucracy, animal welfare and financial worries can be debilitating. But often there can be deeper issues. How do we cope with succession and inheritance? How can we manage when relationships fail? How can we run the farm when we are struggling with grief after a bereavement or loss? What life is there in retirement when all we have done is farmed 24/7?
Getting support for stress and depression
The majority of our callers are suffering from stress or depression. This could sometimes be clinical depression requiring medical intervention, so our first step would be to ask if they’ve seen their doctor recently. However it is sometimes difficult (or embarrassing) to get an appointment when you are feeling down.
We are delighted that there is now a health clinic running at Sedgemoor market on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month. This clinic gives basic health checks and GP referrals and is available to anyone in the farming community.
FCN is here to support farmers as they face difficult times and our volunteers will stand by them as they try to resolve the different issues which are causing concerns. We know that by resolving practical problems, the mental wellbeing of the whole family will be improved.
We have no magic wand but our 35 volunteers in this county all have farming experience and many have faced similar problems themselves. They all have different areas of experience in finance, animal welfare, Rural Payments Agency and British Cattle Movement Service issues and bereavement, but their main role is in pastoral understanding. By sharing a problem in confidence to someone who understands and is non-judgemental you can often find an answer and a way forward. Being listened to is a great experience, which sadly many people do not enjoy – especially those who are isolated and lonely.
If you, or someone you know, are finding life hard at the moment, please give us a ring. Having someone on your side can be very beneficial.
National Helpline: 03000 111 999
Somerset: 01934 712128
Coordinator of the Farming Community Network in Somerset
Cornish Mutual is proud to support FCN through a series of fundraising initiatives throughout the year.