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Community / New research looks to improve mental health of farmers and crofters

Sheep numbers across Scotland could halve according to Scotland's Rural College. Photo: Shetland NewsPhoto: Shetland News

A STUDY is set to take place in Shetland and the Highlands to explore how the mental health and wellbeing of farming and crofting communities can be best supported.

The research, which is being led by the University of Stirling and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), will look to address increasing rates of depression and high instances of suicide within the farming community.

The study will run through to summer 2022.

It will seek to understand the preferences and views of farmers and crofters on two possible interventions – one delivering emotional and social support, and the other an online psychological therapy.

Director of the nursing, midwifery and allied health professions research unit at Stirling Professor Margaret Maxwell said: “The underlying reasons for poor mental health among the farming and crofting community lies in the unique social, environmental and economic challenges of rural food production, therefore an intervention that is targeted towards helping farmers and crofters cope with these issues may be more acceptable and beneficial.

“We know that farmers are more likely to turn to their own communities for support than to health or social work authorities, with many preferring to engage with advice from colleagues such as vets or use anonymous supports such as telephone or online resources.

“However, there is no current knowledge concerning preferences, and acceptability or uptake, of remote interventions and how these can best be signposted to farmers and crofters.”

The research team is appealing for volunteers within these areas who may be interested in participating.

All farm workers, unpaid workers and family members who are currently experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, are invited to participate.

They will receive either an online-based psychological therapy, a social and emotional support service, or a combination of both, for up to eight weeks.

The study is being funded by the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office.

If you would like to volunteer, email: farmingminds@sruc.ac.uk