Urgent action is needed to address the mental health issues which surveys have shown are worsening among farmers and improve support services.
A study commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, part of funding body UKRI, has shown how the covid pandemic has increased farmers’ stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings. Mental health services are strained in rural communities and coverage patchy across the UK.
While some were able to adapt to digital forms of engagement during the pandemic, those struggling with low digital literacy, and poor broadband and mobile phone connectivity were disproportionately affected, the research found. Farmers across the board struggled more than ever to access rural frontline services.
The project, led by Cranfield professor of sustainable agriculture systems David Rose, recommends policymakers take steps to help rural-proof primary mental healthcare services and better support organisations that widen the safety net for farmers.
Professor Rose said: “Primary mental healthcare provision in parts of the UK is based on urban delivery models that do not suit rural communities. This leaves civil society organisations fighting to fill the support gap, but these organisations face their own struggles.
“This issue needs urgent attention to ensure farmers get the support they need.”