Mental health crisis in rural communities sparks MPs concern
Rural mental health across England must be improved, recommends a new cross-party report
Rural mental health across England is an area of “considerable concern” according to a report by the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
Findings show that the needs of rural communities are not fully reflected in mental health policy, services, and national NHS planning and recommend that DEFRA and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) should establish a new rural mental health policy, with support for rural health providers.
Helen Benson, chief executive of the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust said: “Publication of the findings of the rural mental health report is timely, given the pressures gamekeepers and their families are under at a time of rapid change. At the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust we are increasingly concerned for the mental health of the sector; long hours, isolation, disease and weather dependency we can cope with to a large extent but in addition to outside pressures, ill health or other personal circumstances can become an overwhelming burden. We welcome the recommendations to highlight mental health, and any support the government can provide. It has never been more needed.”
Inaccessible for rural communities
The report says that DHSC and DEFRA “must identify supporting and improving the mental health and well-being of those within farming and the agricultural veterinary sectors as high priorities.” It also points out that NHS mental health services are often not fairly accessible for rural communities, with services largely centred in towns and cities.
Form filling and administration has also added to stress levels: “Government schemes, associated bureaucracy, and regulatory requirements appeared to be key sources of stress for the farming community.” Data from the Office for National Statistics in 2018 indicated that more than one agricultural worker committed suicide each week in the UK.