Cumbria farmers ‘need innovative help with mental health’

Consultant Rachel Gunning and farmer Amie Winder

Farmer Amie Winder, right, believes the help of fellow farm counselor Rachel Gunning is the solution

Those in the industry say farmers who are reluctant to seek help need “innovative” mental health services.

Amie Winder, who owns sheep in Cumbria, said that farmers “won’t tell you they were struggling”.

He said it involves going 45 miles to Carlisle to get help, and waiting too long for an appointment often means it’s “too late.”

Penrith and Border MP Neil Hudson said farmers need to “access support in their own environment”.

He said “innovative approaches” are needed, such as offering assistance through apps, at livestock markets or on the farms themselves.

The Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear mental health foundation said its services are based on a variety of local sites and offer phone calls and online options, as well as caring for people at home whenever possible.

MP Neil Hudson

Neil Hudson is on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs selection committee, which produced a report on the subject.

Ms Winder, whose farm is located in Ravenstondale, said the farmers worked long hours “in any weather” and felt misunderstood and unappreciated.

“Every day is a struggle,” he said.

“I know there’s help out there, but it’s nine-to-five Monday to Friday and a farmer doesn’t work nine-to-five Monday to Friday.”

His friend Rachel Gunning is a private psychotherapy counselor who believes talking to farmers on the spot is the solution.

“Rachel is coming to your farm,” said Miss Winder.

“That’s what farmers will look for – they’ll appreciate the help and they’ll appreciate the company and you’ll see it open up.”

Rachel Gunning keeps sheep

Rachel Gunning says she can help with farm work while offering advice

Ms Gunning, of Kirkby Stephen, said that farmers often do not seek support for mental health problems because they fear they “could be perceived as weak or not be able to keep everything under control”.

“You’re lucky you got a farmer through the doctor’s operating door.

“I think it would be really beneficial if I could offer them a service where I could continue to work with them so as not to waste time.”

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs selection committee is examining the issue and plans to produce a report later in the year.

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