We're deeply disappointed with the government’s response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee's rural mental health report which called for more targeted mental health provisions for rural workers and communities.
Faced with a complex set of challenges on a daily basis, farmers and those working in rural communities deal with a unique set of stresses that are often outside of their control. From unpredictable weather and animal health crises to labour shortages, isolation, the cost of living crisis, and changes in government policies – which all impact on their mental health and income.
The report was compiled by the (EFRA) Committee – and included contributions from BACP – and submitted to the government in May. It aimed to shine a light on the struggles faced by rural communities, how these impact on mental health, and provide a series of suggested improvements to the government’s current support package.
Today the government responded to this report and stated that the specific mental health needs of rural communities do not require targeted action, citing that the existing provisions are sufficient to safeguard rural mental health.
Martin Bell, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at BACP, said:
“The government’s response to the EFRA Committee report feels like an insult to rural workers and communities, and we believe they are seriously failing our farmers. Faced with a unique set of challenges, every week three people in the UK farming and agricultural industry die by suicide. Male farm workers are also three times more likely to take their own lives than the male national average 1. The government’s current support package for rural communities is simply not enough – so much more is needed, particularly with regards to making psychological therapies more accessible.
“We know that counselling and therapy can provide an essential lifeline to those in need in rural communities. But often people in these communities face barriers to access mental health support – such as a lack of public transport, poor internet connection, and knowing where to access the support. However, when these barriers are removed, we know that people will access help and can thrive from it.”
Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, said:
“Our committee was hopeful that the Government would recognise the distinct needs and circumstances of the rural population and would follow our carefully considered recommendations to support and protect them. While we recognise that the Government has taken measures to support the mental health of the general population, we are disappointed by its rejection of measures to support the specific and identifiable mental health needs of those who live in rural areas.
“This was an opportunity to make significant changes which could greatly impact our rural communities. With this response the Government demonstrates a worrying degree of complacency on the issue and so will fail to confront the significant problem of improving rural mental health.”