Providing bespoke emotional and personal support
Rural Support was established in response to the emotional trauma experienced by the farming and rural community in the aftermath of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the early 2000’s.
The mental anguish caused by the destruction of animals, together with the devastating financial impact, highlighted the need for a service which offered specific emotional and personal support.
Initially Rural Support established a Helpline for distressed farmers and their families offering essential, crisis services through a reactive and speedy response at the point of need. The types of issues addressed include emotional distress, suicide risk, financial problems, inheritance issues, physical and mental health worries, farming paperwork and bureaucracy.
In 2020, the Helpline saw a threefold increase in calls as the Covid 19 pandemic created a sense of fear and distress as well as added isolation and loneliness for people in rural and farming communities.
Clear, impartial advice and support
In more recent years Rural Support has extended its services to include one-to-one business, financial and technical mentoring. The mentoring service works in conjunction with the Helpline Service and provides immediate, tailored follow-up support to those in crisis. Its services are generally reactive and focused on sorting out the immediate crisis/problem whether that be related to the farm business; financial issues; family issues; succession; and/or emotional health.
The mentoring service aims to engage the whole farm family and can be enriched by small grants of financial assistance to alleviate exceptional financial difficulties.
Rural Support’s vision is of a vibrant, healthy and resilient farming community in Northern Ireland
Providing a timely and effective response
During 2019-20, on-farm Mentoring Support was provided to 166 individuals, primarily male and in the 45+ age group. For three quarters of these clients, the call to Rural Support was the first action they took to seek support for the difficulties they were experiencing.
Individuals supported by the mentoring service demonstrate an average improvement in their mental well-being of 58%. An independent evaluation of the mentoring service identified that the social return on investment in the service is £13.88 for every £1 spent.
farmers, farm businesses & farming families annually
families with emergency financial aid
Building resilience and preparing for the future
A recent Rural Support survey indicates that only 23% of the farming community were optimistic about the future. Additionally, 43% of respondents were concerned about their physical and mental wellbeing.
In response, Rural Support proposes three new innovative programmes: The Business of Farming – focussing on building resilience and sustainability; The Prince’s Countryside Fund Farm Resilience Programme – developing strategic business and management skills; and, Coping with the Pressures of Farming – featuring a range of informal mental health & wellbeing workshops. These will complement the Helpline and Mentoring Services and proactively promote prevention techniques and crisis aversion strategies.