A positive call to our farmers

As rural life continues to change, this can present new opportunities and problems. With recent bad weather and shortage of fodder, a strong community and helping spirit has been obvious and a lifeline to many families.

However, for some, these challenges may have increased their feelings of isolation, stress, anxiety or low mood. At this difficult time it is important to make sure that the mental health of the farming community is supported and that farmers know help is available.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is working with Rural Support – a leading charity, to provide help and advice to farmers. Rural Support offers a confidential Helpline which is available 8am to 11pm, 7 days per week (voicemail and support options available at all other times) on 0845 606 7607. They can offer emotional support, advice on dealing with practical issues and managing debt. They can also direct you to other organisations that can help.

Farming can result in a lot of pressure and responsibility along with physical and mental exhaustion so it is critical that farmers and their families take time to look after their physical and mental health. If you have any concerns please talk to Rural Support or your GP.

There are some simple ways of improving your own mental health and that of others including:

• Connecting – taking the time to keep or develop good relationships with family, friends and the wider community will ensure you have people to talk to when you need to

• Take time to ask farming friends, family or neighbours how they are doing

• Eat well – a healthy balanced diet will improve your mood as well as your waistline

• Seeking support from others following bereavement or relationship breakdowns. CRUSE Bereavement Care can help you cope with grief (t: 0844 477 9400), or Relate can help with relationship issues (t: 0870 242 6091)

• Reduce your alcohol intake as alcohol depresses mood and can reduce your ability to deal with stress

• If you are finding it difficult to cope, contact Rural Support on 0845 606 7607 or Lifeline - a 24 hr helpline for people in distress or despair on 0808 808 8000

Talking about our problems, fears and worries is a great way to ease them and figure out ways to manage them. Farmers can generally be reluctant to talk about their feelings and concerns, but staff and volunteers in Rural Support understand farming life, and provide a listening and signposting service for farmers and rural families across Northern Ireland. No matter what your situation is, help is always available.

For further information please contact: Kyra Smyth on 2563 3762. Out-of-hours number 07917 889405. For more information on our services visit our website on www.northerntrust.hscni.net or visit the Northern Trust Facebook page