'Shift happens': Tour to promote positive mental health for farmers

The tour aims to help farmers become more prepared mentally for challenges that lie ahead
The tour aims to help farmers become more prepared mentally for challenges that lie ahead

A new series of talks to commence next week are set to promote positive mental health in the farming industry.

Running from 30 September 30 to 18 October 18, the 'Shift Happens' tour aims to help farmers share the weight of their problems.

The talks will be hosted by charity the Farming Community Network (FCN) and sponsored by retailer Waitrose.

They will encourage members of the farming community, who often manage difficult business and personal issues, to be more open with their peers.



In addition to everyday issues, farmers have an array of responsibilities and pressures they have to deal with on a daily basis.

This can range from poor weather conditions and severe fluctuations in input costs, to name just a few.



Levels of depression within the industry are thought to be increasing in the UK and suicide rates, particularly for males under 40, are among the highest in any occupational group.

The talks will focus on issues such as these that often afflict the mental health of farmers.

According to the most common queries received by the FCN’s helpline in 2018, 42% of respondents are concerned of their financial wellbeing, with a third (29%) wanting to discuss their mental health.

Other top concerns included animal disease and welfare (13%), agriculture policy from organisations like Defra and Natural England, and family relationships (9%).

Charles Smith, Chief Executive of the FCN, said: “British farming is constantly evolving but it is likely to experience some more significant changes in the near future.

“This tour aims to help Britain’s farming community become more resilient in the face of those changes and help them be more prepared mentally for whatever challenges lie ahead.”

Waitrose will help facilitate the talks. The retailer said it is 'critical' that farmers talk about any concerns they have.



Tor Harris, Head of CSR at Waitrose, comments: “Farming can be a very solitary existence, which means problems are often faced alone.

“This is why it is critical that we enable farmers to share the weight of their problems with people in similar circumstances, as just talking about those concerns can have a hugely positive impact.”

The talks will be hosted by the FCN and Rural Support Network Northern Ireland, alongside key speaker Doug Avery, a farmer from New Zealand.