On the 19th May local contacts from the agricultural sector met at Wright Hassall’s offices in Leamington Spa to discuss how to spot the early signs of stress within the farming community.

Katie Alsop, solicitor at Wright Hassall organised the event and invited two speakers from leading organisations that offer help and support to farmers: Charles Smith, Chief executive of the Farming Community Network (FCN) and Becky Davies, Regional Manager for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (R.A.B.I). Around 30 people attended the talk which looked at the different causes of stress for farming people and how their organisations can help.

The FCN is a network of 400 volunteers, organised into county groups throughout England and Wales, many of whom are members of the farming community or have close links with agriculture. They provide pastoral and practical support to farmers and their families when there are problems on the farm or within the family, helping people to find a positive way forward.

An increasing number of farmers are currently facing difficult times, as is reflected in the threefold rise in calls to the FCN confidential telephone helpline in the past four months. There are a wide variety of problems that affect those who work and live on-farm and they can even threaten their livelihoods. The event highlighted issues such as disease, adverse weather conditions, increased regulation, competition and financial pressures as factors that can cause mental strain and suffering. These sustained anxieties can have a considerable impact on the physical and mental well-being of farmers and can lead to depression and negative thoughts, which is why it is so imperative for vulnerable people to seek help. The signs to look for if an individual is becoming overly stressed with work problems include: isolation (by working longer hours); avoidance of social activities like hobbies; and a change in behaviour such as becoming irritable or anxious. In Warwickshire there is an active team of volunteers but in order to be most effective the FCN need those who come into contact with members of the farming community to be aware of the support that the FCN can provide.

R.A.B.I is a grant-making charity which gives confidential help to farming people in financial difficulty. Founded in 1860, it helps working farmers and farm workers on a short-term basis, for example following illness, accident, bereavement, family breakdown, or animal disease, and offers long-term help to elderly people and disabled people of all ages. Support includes state benefits’ advice and one-off or regular grants, including winter heating supplements and helping with utility bills and telephone charges. It can also pay for things like disability equipment, essential household goods, and hospital travel costs.

R.A.B.I supports more than 2,000 farming families a year with one-off or regular grants and in 2015 the organisation gave out over 11,000 grants totaling £1.9 million. Most of its work is funded by public donations, money raised at events arranged by the charity’s volunteer county committees, and support from local businesses and community groups.
The event stressed that it is crucial for those who are struggling to seek help. Paul Rice, head of agriculture and farming at Wright Hassall, said it was vital for people concerned about a family member, friend, neighbour or business contact who they suspected of suffering from stress to come forward to organisations such as the FCN or R.A.B.I. Farmers often refuse help even when the situation is dire as they often don’t want to let down their families who are usually invested the business too. However the FCN and R.A.B.I along with other charitable organisations have initiatives put in place to help those in times of need.

To find out more visit www.rabi.org.uk or call R.A.B.I’s confidential helpline 0808 819490. For more details about FCN please go to www.fcn.org.uk or call their helpline which is manned everyday between 7am and 11pm on 03000 111 999.