Farm Safety Week – The importance of Rural Support to the farming community in Northern Ireland

During this Farm Safety Week, the Farm Safety Foundation and its partner organisations have emphasised the importance of the charity ‘Rural Support’.

Rural Support was formed as a charity in 2002. At that time, the Foot and Mouth epidemic was having a severe impact on farmers and on the rural community as a whole. There was evidence of distress within the rural community and the need for a support service was identified.

The organisation has evolved significantly over the past, almost 20 years. It currently provides support in a number of ways including through a confidential helpline which offers a listening and signposting service for farmers and farm families.

As well as the helpline, Rural Support’s financial and mentoring programme offers one to one support with a number of experienced mentors who help farmers and farming families address a range of issues including financial and debt problems, inheritance issues, physical and mental health concerns, farming paperwork and bureaucracy. It also delivers a series of programmes across Northern Ireland relating to mental health awareness and farm business management.

At last year’s Balmoral Show, Rural Support, in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), launched its new booklet entitled ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming’, aimed at offering the farming community help and assistance in relation to their health and well-being and coping with the everyday pressures of running a farm.

Staying well mentally is just as important as staying well physically. Dealing with stress and strain, the ups and downs of life, are part and parcel of daily living and this is even more significant in the farming family where farm pressures bring these stresses to a different level.

Veronica Morris, Rural Support Chief Executive, said: “The core of our approach is to work with farmers and farming families to find the cause of their issues and together develop practical ways to deal with that so helping alleviate the mental and emotional distress that they experiencing.  

“The beginning of that process is awareness and the ‘Coping with the Pressures of Farming’ booklet helps to create that. Also recent research undertaken by Rural Support has identified that farm pressures have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, and worries about what Brexit will bring is also significantly increasing stress levels.  

“Our ‘Business of Farming’ programme which launches in the Autumn with a series of meetings across Northern Ireland, will start to unpick the issues and causes of that stress with our farmers, whether the causes are financial and business related, or physical and mental health. We would encourage anyone who is having issues to seek out those meetings and come along to find out what can be done to create a stronger farm business and a happier life for everyone in the farm family.”

Further information on Rural Support can be found on their website at www.ruralsupport.org.uk and its helpline is available at 0800 138 1678 Monday to Friday 9am – 9pm with other options available 24/7.