Church in Wales expands farmers' well-being helpline

Tir Dewi was formed in response to a growing need to help Welsh farmers in difficult times
Tir Dewi was formed in response to a growing need to help Welsh farmers in difficult times

The Church is offering more free mental health support to farmers in Wales after it said depression and anxiety in the industry was growing.

The Church's Tir Dewi helpline has been expanded to cover farmers in Powys, with plans to cover Gwynedd, Conwy and Anglesey in the coming months.

Reverend and dairy farmer Eileen Davies and Bishop Wyn, both based in West Wales, agreed that something had to be offered to farmers suffering loneliness and depression.

They established the helpline Tir Dewi four years ago, and has since helped hundreds of farmers. It is funded by the Church and the Prince's Countryside Fund.

The helpline's project leader, Elen Skyrme spoke to BBC News about the issue, and said farmers were worried about issues such as rural crime, bovine TB and poor connectivity.

"Experience has taught us that if a farmer is struggling with one or two of these, then there is a very high chance that they are struggling with a few of them - if not all.

"We didn't anticipate the sheer scale of the need," she told the broadcaster.

'Rural-life advisers' will be established in every diocese area to help farmers suffering difficulties, the scheme organisers confirmed.

However, a survey quizzing Powys farmers about the issue of mental health showed that that 67% of them wouldn't ask for help due to 'embarrassment' or 'shame'.

Tir Dewi chief executive Gareth Davies said this was a 'very disturbing' finding: "We have a lot of work to do to build trust and confidence that our support is entirely confidential, free, and that we never judge.

"However, we can use our experience in west Wales where we spent a lot of time travelling around the local farming community and using volunteers known in the area."

Tir Dewi's freephone number is available between 07.00 and 22.00 every day.