BACP called for urgent action to support the mental health of farmers ahead of a Parliamentary debate in Westminster on suicide in the farming community.

Our briefing document said that farmers are at increasing risk of suicide and that those experiencing mental health problems should receive timely support, information and treatment, including access to a choice of talking therapies.

Chris Davies, the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, quoted BACP during the adjournment debate on Wednesday.

He said: “According to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, recent research by the Farm Safety Foundation found that 81% of farmers under 40 believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today, and 92% believe that promoting good mental health is crucial if lives are to be saved and farmers kept safe.”

Long hours

Martin Bell, BACP head of policy and stakeholder relations, said: “BACP is concerned that the mental health of farmers is often overlooked and that suitable services, including having access to, and choice of, evidence-based talking therapies is not readily available to many who need it.

“Farmers work long hours, often in isolation. They can be under significant financial pressure and may take on significant debt to purchase the land and equipment required.

“In most cases, a farmer’s place of business is also his or her home, meaning there is no easy way to get away from the workload. 

“In addition, farmers are constantly vulnerable to unusual events and circumstances that can impact their bottom line — from weather and natural disasters to international trade agreements.”

Martin added: “BACP believes that farmers’ increasing risk of suicide requires urgent action, enabling those experiencing mental health problems to receive timely support, information and treatment. This must include access to a choice of evidence-based talking therapies.”

Demographic shift

Writing ahead of the debate we pointed to the 2017 report Agriculture in the UK, which confirmed that the farming community is growing older with the average age of farmers 60 years.

Jeremy Bacon, BACP older people lead, said: “It is important to take note of this demographic shift, as there is known to be less recognition of symptoms of common mental health problems and greater reluctance to seek help by older people.

“We also know that when older people do speak to their GPs about anxiety and depression, they are more likely to be prescribed anti-depressant medication and less likely to be offered a talking therapy than younger people.”

Jeremy added: “BACP members in Wales who work with older clients have shared their concerns that cuts to funding of third sector services providing counselling have had greatest impact on hard-to-reach communities in rural areas and have identified a pressing need for greater engagement with people in need in those communities and increased access to a full range and choice of psychological therapies.”

To find a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist near you visit our Find a Therapist Directory.