Volunteers from Farmerados, an organisation which provides mental health support to farmers in Somerset, have told MPs from the House of Commons’ Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee how ‘pop-up’ living rooms can help.
The committee is conducting an inquiry into rural mental health and was able to hear about some of the issues which affect farmers in particular.
Look out for each other
Farmerados is inspired by Camerados, a global movement which says the best way through tough times is to look out for each other.
A Farmerados volunteer is halfway between being a stranger and a friend on the farm – there for a supportive chat, with no judgements and no fixing.
They hope to inspire, resource and connect and after mental health first aid training have set up the pop-up ‘public living rooms’ – spaces where anyone can come and have a chat.
“The pop-up living room is a no agenda space – we are not selling anything, and we are not there to fix people,” said Trudy Herniman of Farmerados.
“It is encouraging conversations, social interaction – something that was very much missed through lockdown. By attending markets or shows, it is an environment that farmers feel comfortable in.
“They can be themselves and are not responding to questions which make them feel uncomfortable.”
The farming community experiences lower mental well-being than much of the wider population, with stress factors including unpredictable weather; financial pressures; concerns about the future of farming; and worries about government inspections and regulations.
Stresses and challenges
People working in agriculture are more likely to die by suicide than the general population.
The chair of the EFRA committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, said: “As a farmer myself I know about some of the stresses and challenges farmers face.
“I’m looking forward to hearing about how we can help them better manage their mental health and what kind of support services are most effective”.
Also part of the visit were MPs Rosie Duffield (Lab, Canterbury) and Dr Neil Hudson (Con, Penrith and The Border).