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Lincolnshire Rural Support Network reports increase in farmers with mental health issues





More farmers in Lincolnshire are seeking mental health support due to a “pressure cooker” of issues.

Over the past six years, the Lincolnshire Rural Support Network (LRSN) has reported a 241% increase in people coming to them with stress and mental health issues.

The organisation insists that changes in agricultural policy, alongside global events such as Brexit and the economic crisis, have placed immense pressure on agricultural families.

Colin Davie at Lincolnshire Show 2024
Colin Davie at Lincolnshire Show 2024

Through its research, the LRSN also found that one third of the farming community suffers from depression and that 47% experiences anxiety.

One factor behind this rise in anxiety is the social isolation due to the long hours the average farmer works. The average working week for a farmer is reported to be 65 hours, and 10% of farmers do no off-farm activities.

Sadly, the research also highlights that more than one farmer a week in the UK dies by suicide. In Lincolnshire, 24-year-old farmer Alec Newlove from Louth was one of those who recently took his own life.

Mental health nurse Gilly Steel, who acts as the health and wellbeing lead at the LRSN, remembered Alec as a “very well known and very popular young man”.

Gilly noted that although the majority of the general public feels that farmers are fairly well off, this isn’t really the case. She said that the “torrential amount of rain” caused by Storms Babet and Henk has created a massive issue for many across the county.

“Farmers grow our food, and certain crops rely on specific weather conditions, but we can’t rely on the seasons we used to have,” said Gilly.

“You’ve got a very small profit margin to start with, considering machinery bills, land rent, and property rent, so the weather has been a massive issue recently.”

She later urged anyone in the farming community to speak up and seek support if they are struggling, noting that the LRSN is available to help. “Even if the individual thinks it’s something small, if it’s bothering them, they should talk to someone about it. We are here to listen.”

Councillor Colin Davie (Con), portfolio holder for economic development, environment, and planning, warned that the farming sector has a tough year ahead, also noting recent weather events, and arguing that it needs more support from central government.

Speaking at Lincolnshire Show, Coun Davie said: “Farming is a critical part of the national makeup and at the moment I don’t think any of the political parties are making the right noises about the support they need to give to the farming sector.

“It isn’t about money, it’s about the rule of thumb going forward, it’s about a long-term vision. We’ve got to give hope to the young kids who are maybe thinking about taking over their dad’s farm.”

“Farming is hard work for sometimes no pay,” he added, pointing towards the added pressure caused by the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“At the end of the day, farmers are investing in their business. If they have a bad harvest, they lose money. Who helps then? Who helps them through it? Do they get the financial support they need? Do they get the mental support they need? I don’t think so.

“This is going to be a very, very difficult year for the farming sector across the nation, and particularly here in Lincolnshire. We’ve had a lot of flooding issues over the past winter, and the weather has been very poor. Some of the crops look good, but now the question is, will we get the weather to harvest them?

“We are in very challenging times. The farming sector needs to be properly supported. We need to love our farming community and support it better than we are doing at the moment.”

- Samaritans offer free round the clock, confidential support to anyone that wants to talk through their problems - call 116 123, free from any phone, or visit www.samaritans.org



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