The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Shooters encouraged to discuss mental health

Those who take part in fieldsports are often reluctant to discuss their mental health for fear of stigma and that guns may be removed.

One in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year, and it is acknowledged that those who live and work rurally are at increased risk of experiencing mental health issues. 

There may be reluctance to share problems with peers due to the perceived stigma and value placed on remaining stoical. In a close-knit community it can feel as though everyone knows each other’s business, but rather than a growing concern, there is an evolving dialogue that should be encouraged. 

Fieldsports are a source of not only income to those who work in the industry but also of conviviality, teamwork and friendship. Time spent in the field benefits both physical and mental health, however experiences with doctors and the police are often mixed, depending on whether they understand the nature of fieldsports. 

Matt Cross, a shooting journalist who recently had his guns confiscated after tweeting about his improving mental health, told ST: “One of the most important things you can do to protect your mental health is to talk about the issues that you are facing. Talking about those issues is far more important than any negative consequences you might face.The authorities need to take a more sensible approach to these sorts of concerns.” 

Helen Benson, CEO of the Gamekeepers Welfare Trust (GWT), explained that despite reassurance that guns will not necessarily be taken if mental health issues are reported, this remains a barrier to seeking help. Mrs Benson told ST: “Bodies such as the GWT have launched initiatives aimed at increasing the awareness of mental health issues in fieldsports and are an invaluable resource providing free, confidential support to those in need.” 

Simon Whitehead, ferreter and regular Shooting Times columnist, believes we need to remove the taboo around mental health. He uses social media to promote this discussion and remove the stigma, freely acknowledging his own struggles with anxiety in the past. Simon told ST: “Social media is often a double-edged sword, but we need to move with the times. What we really need is a culture shift in fieldsports. A lot of people are scared of change.”