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The Farming Community Network (FCN) is asking the farming community if it’s really ‘as tough as old boots’.

FCN has developed a short campaign to encourage the farm community to talk about mental health by developing a series of graphics and a poster asking readers, ‘Are you really as tough as old boots?’ before breaking down some of the ways in which we might put on a brave face and avoid talking about difficult topics such as suicide, bereavement, loneliness and feeling overwhelmed.

FCN is a national charity which supports farmers and farming families during difficult times. FCN has volunteers in England and Wales and operates a free confidential helpline (03000 111 999) open 7am to 11pm and an e-helpline (help@fcn.org.uk). FCN helps approximately 6,000 people each year.

The charity hopes readers will share the poster with local GP surgeries, veterinary clinics, village halls and more to help let those living and working in rural and farming communities know that help is available.

Alex Phillimore, Marketing and Communications Manager with The Farming Community Network, said: “Our personal health and wellbeing is a difficult topic to talk about and many suffer in silence. Farmers can have a reputation for being able to weather any storm and overcome any challenge. While farmers are incredibly resilient, there is no harm in letting people know when we need an extra hand, or when we’re worried about something and don’t know how to resolve it on our own.

“We’re certainly stronger together and we hope this campaign will help to challenge preconceived notions and remind farming families that FCN and other charities are here to help. Our ‘tough as old boots’ communication builds upon a similar message that FCN promoted in the past to encourage people to ask for help, before mental health was as widely talked about.” 

FCN is working with The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs and The DPJ Foundation to deliver new Rural+ mental health awareness training modules, aimed at young 10-26 YFC members and 16-25 year old ag students.

FCN is also involved in research with the University of Exeter examining farmers’ experiences of loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health. Findings will help to improve mental health support to the farming community. If you are a farmer and would like to be interviewed as part of this research, please email Rebecca Wheeler on R.Wheeler3@exeter.ac.uk

Earlier this year FCN helped to launch two short films featuring farmers who have experienced mental ill-health and initially struggled to ask for help. The videos have a positive message, highlighting why it is important to seek support and to talk about what we’re going through when times are tough.

The films are available here:

  • Farming and Better Mental Health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6U7oT_kdVk
  • The Hill Farmer: https://vimeo.com/507036647

For those experiencing suicidal thoughts, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or jo@samaritans.org.

The Hill Farmer (sub) from Autumn Films on Vimeo.

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