Parliamentary inquiry launched to help tackle mental health problems among farmers and rural workers

The UK government is launching a new inquiry into mental health among farmers, crofters, vets and other rural workers in a bid to tackle disproportionately high rates of suicide and depression in agriculture-related professions.

MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee are calling for individuals and organisations to take part in the study to give their own experiences of issues facing the sector and help available for those who may be struggling to cope.

The aim of the inquiry is to help improve support in countryside areas, which are often less well served than urban centres.

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MP Neil Parish, chair of the EFRA Committee, said: “I’m pleased we’re starting this vital work.

A Westminster inquiry has been launched in a bid to tackle mental health support for rural workers and address high suicide rates among farmers, vets and other agriculture-related professionals

“It's important we talk openly about these issues and the help that is available.

“Mental health matters to us all. But for some people working in rural communities there are special factors that are often hidden in a world that sometimes feels like it is driven by those living in towns and cities.

“I’m a farmer myself and I know how people in our communities can sometimes suffer from isolation.

“That’s not to mention how insecure incomes, volatile weather and many other issues can be real stress factors.

“We hope to look into all of these subjects and more, then make recommendations about how the government can improve mental health provision in rural communities.

“I encourage everyone with a take on this subject – whether professional or personal – to take part in our inquiry.”

Farming and other agriculture-related professions are known to face particular mental health challenges, with above-average rates of depression and suicide.

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Statistics suggest that one farmer dies by suicide each week in the UK, while research by Edinburgh University has shown that the rate of suicide in the veterinary profession is at least three times that of the general population.

Access to services in rural and remote communities can be poor due to a lack of facilities and other factors such as limited public transport.

It has been argued that the low visibility of mental health services in these regions can lead to a culture of ‘self-reliance’, which can prevent people from seeking support before reaching a crisis stage.

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