• Ensuring good mental health while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, coupled with limited contact with family and friends and the disruption to normal way of life, has been a key challenge for us all. The issue of protecting mental health in the farming community  has been particularly relevant during this difficult period.

    Farmers’ mental health and wellbeing – a multi-faceted issue

    There are generally considered to be number of contributory reasons for why those in the farming profession are at risk of suffering with mental ill-health. These can include the extended amount of time that farmers spend working in isolation, financial uncertainty (often brought about by issues out of human control such as severe weather), and regulatory and succession burdens. Recent times have been additionally testing with the rise of the ‘anti-meat agenda’ and uncertainty due to Brexit.

    More widely, many farmers and agricultural organisations also hold concerns regarding the long-term viability of traditional farming as a business model.

    For generations, many in the industry have responded to hardship by drawing on their own strengths, with the focus on their health and wellbeing a low priority. Additionally, the farming culture can be a barrier to some in seeking advice and support. A recent survey by Farmers Weekly found that more than 80 percent of farmers under the age of 40 believe poor mental health is the biggest hidden problem that they and their peers are facing today.

    The effect of coronavirus

    In recent months the negative impact of coronavirus on the farming community has been widely reported. Dairy farmers, in particular, have been heavily affected by the widespread closure of cafes and restaurants. Representative bodies for the farming industry have warned of the related impact on farmers’ mental health, brought about by the pandemic.

    It is not all doom and gloom, however. Throughout the lockdown period many local farm shops have stayed open for public use, often flourishing through increased customer footfall and changing shopping habits of consumers. Many of those who have adapted their services to offer flexible online and delivery services have also benefitted.

    We are now seeing lockdown restrictions gradually relaxed and businesses returning to the workplace, although it is too early to forecast the long-term effects of the pandemic on the farming industry.

    Mental health support

    Times are changing, and in recent years mental health is being discussed more openly in all forums, with help more easily accessible.

    In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Government has announced £5 million funding to be given to mental health community projects. In addition, both ACAS and the NFU have also produced guidance for farmers and their families on how to maintain good mental health during the pandemic. There are also a range of other mental health charities, such as MIND, which can provide support.

    Brachers – supporting the farming community

    At Brachers we provide legal guidance on all aspects of agricultural law and are committed to supporting our farming clients, some of whom we have been advising for three generations. We also work with our clients in the farming community to provide support in other areas of their personal or business legal affairs.

    Our Private Client team administer the Kent Farmers Benevolent Fund, which is a small charity set up in 1967 by local farmers and Philip Bracher – a past partner at Brachers. The objective of the trust is to provide financial assistance to farmers and their families when in need. The current board of trustees is made up of local farmers covering all areas of Kent. The trust works closely with the NFU supporting it with regular donations, but also welcome direct applications from farmers and their families who are in need.

    In the past the fund has assisted by providing:

    • Money to help install a heating system for an elderly retired farmer.
    • Money to help a family pay for the funeral of a farmer who died suddenly in a tragic accident.
    • Financial assistance to a farmer who fell from a corn silo and needed to employ temporary help.

    Further support

    If you are struggling with your mental health currently, or know a friend, family member or colleague who is finding it difficult, there is support available.

    If you think that Kent Farmers Benevolent fund may be able to help, please contact Brachers Senior Associate, Kim Harrington.

    Find out more about the legal support we can offer those working in the agricultural sector.

    Can we help?

    Take a look at our Agriculture and Rural page for useful information, resources, guidance, details of our team and how we may be able to help you

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