YANA Press Release
The Farming and Rural Communities supporting their own
Dr Alys Cole-King, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist,Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board/Clinical Director Connecting with People.
Jo Hoey – The YANA Project
Every day at Fram Farmers we see the benefits of the tight knit farming communities across the UK, but one of the harsh facts of farming, horticulture and rural trades is that the group is high risk of depression and suicide.
For those in farming this is easily understood with some of the main issues being increasingly erratic weather patterns, animal diseases such as the recent bird flu, stresses with marketing produce, workplace isolation, lack of respite, increasing regulation, poor financial returns (a recent study shows the farmers’ average income is under £20k) and no doubt uncertainty with Brexit is yet another factor as well as an historical reluctance to discuss mental health.
Between 2006 and 2015 Public Health Norfolk recorded 35 deaths by suicide from this cohort – nearly twice the rate for the general population. Currently, the rates for farmers taking their own lives is 1.7 times higher than that of most other industries. With concerns, focusing on access to firearms and chemicals, there is an urgent need to ‘look out for one another’. It was one such farming tragedy that prompted a Norfolk Charity to launch The YANA (You Are Not Alone) Project in 2008. Jo Hoey from YANA explained that the website and informative leaflets describe the symptoms of depression and action to take whilst YANA’s presence at every agricultural event in Norfolk and Suffolk throughout the year has successfully raised the profile of mental health, highlighting that it is ‘ok not to feel ok’ and encouraging those who are suffering from depression, stress or anxiety to visit their GP promptly or contact the YANA confidential helpline. The Project can fund up to six sessions of counselling either via its helpline or a patient’s GP and can put that in place within days – a real lifeline when waiting lists for counselling with the NHS can be months.
The higher suicide rate is related to those in farming having ready access to the means, but people should not be afraid to intervene if they are concerned about a friend, colleagues or even a stranger. Suicidal thoughts usually start because people feel overwhelmed by their problems or situation, usually there is not a single cause. This can happen to anyone, and does not necessarily mean they want to end their life. It is just that they cannot cope with their emotional painany more. Asking if someone is ‘OK’ may be the first step in saving their life. Showing your concern, staying with the person and persuading them to seek support could save someone’s life.
The on-line resource ‘Staying Safe’ includes suggestions where someone in distress can find supportwww.connectingwithpeople.org/StayingSafe
Whilst The YANA Project works throughout Norfolk and Suffolk, it has good links to similar organisations across the UK. At a time when the NHS is experiencing enormous pressures it is good to know that the farming and rural communities are reaching out and supporting their own. If you are struggling, seeking help is not a sign of weakness - it may be the bravest thing you ever do, and might even save your life.
Common symptoms of stress and depression
· Low Mood (sadness, frequently tearful or unable to cry)
· Anxiety (worrying obsessively or disproportionately)
· Changes in appetite
· Disturbed sleep patterns
· Lack of energy/feeling tired
· Reliance on alcohol
· Lack of interest in family and friends
· Unable to enjoy hobbies as before
· Loss of sex drive
· Confused thinking and poor concentration
· A change in personality (e.g. uncharacteristic aggression)
· Negative thoughts
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