How can charities and retailers work together to provide better mental health support for farmers?

A roundtable was recently held to discuss how charities and retailers can work together to improve the messaging and services for mental health support for individuals in food and farming.

The roundtable came about as a result of conversations between Caroline Mason, Head of Agriculture at Coop, and Tess Howe, Membership and Business Development Manager at TIAH (The Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture). These discussions identified the important and supportive role retailer representatives can play for farming communities.

The roundtable aimed to give clarity and direction on how the industry can support whoever goes down the farm drive, for example retailer representatives or consultants, to be more proactive at sharing messages about mental health support and spotting mental health problems.

The event also provided the opportunity to discuss the challenges surrounding mental health support for rural communities.

The main discussion points of the mental health roundtable

The roundtable was structured around the five key themes that were revealed to be the biggest issues experienced by farmers from the results of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution’s (RABI) Big Farming Survey in 2021.

These themes included:

  • Mental health and welfare being across the farming community
  • Women’s mental health
  • Sources of stress
  • Physical health
  • The future of farming.

What were the outcomes from the roundtable?

Generational divide

An important point that was raised during the roundtable was how different generations view mental health and how this perception impacts how they will seek help for mental health.

It was discussed that the generational divide is also an important consideration when thinking about mental health messaging. Many people of the older generation are not on social media but rely much more on friendly face-to-face support.

Importance of trust

It was also raised that trust is incredibly important when discussing mental health support.

Some individuals may feel sceptical about accessing support from charities and would rather confide in a familiar face such as someone who visits the farm on a regular basis, hence the reason for these individuals to have the skills to carry out such support.

Support for the supporters

Another important point that was aired was how we support the supporters. These individuals are often taking on a heavy burden so they also need to be aware of how they can access support from charities.

Next steps after the roundtable

Following the roundtable, a working group has been set up to continue this important work surrounding mental health support.

A key role of the working group will be to decide on how the Mental Health Directory, created by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, can be made more accessible.

The working group will also be instrumental in providing the appropriate skills and support for individuals who are directly supporting farmers with mental health, such as the retailer representatives.

TIAH representatives will play a key role in this group and will be critical in deciding how to support individuals and retailers going forward.

Why is mental health support such an important topic for TIAH?

As an organisation which empowers individuals in agriculture and horticulture to thrive professionally, we believe it’s critical to also promote the importance of mental health and wellbeing.

If an individual is suffering from poor mental health this can have knock on impacts on their ability to work and their career progression, sometimes even leading to the individual stepping away from work for a period of time.

That’s why we believe mental health support should sit alongside professional development support.


Roundtable attendees

Representatives from the following organisations attended the roundtable: