In a bid to promote awareness of mental health in rural communities and tackle the stigma surrounding this sensitive issue, Farming Connect has provided delivery staff with mental health first aid training, which will help them listen to, understand, and signpost individuals in need to appropriate and accessible support.
Levels of depression within the farming industry are thought to be increasing in the UK and suicide rates, particularly for males under 40, are among the highest in any occupational group. This was the hard-hitting message from Emma Picton-Jones, a young mum and primary school teacher from Pembrokeshire who recently delivered a series of two-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses to Farming Connect staff. The training, delivered through Emma’s role as an approved mental health first aider and training provider, is part of her personal and high-profile campaign to offer support, guidance and training to rural organisations and individuals working in agriculture throughout Wales.
Emma lost her young husband Dan, an agricultural contractor, in 2016, when aged just 27, he took his own life. It was a tragedy that has clearly left its mark on Emma, her family and friends, but in the midst of trying to rebuild their lives, she has found a way of ensuring that Daniel’s tragic and premature end, brought on by undiagnosed and untreated depression, has a positive outcome which is now helping many others.
“Farming is an excellent career and can provide huge benefits to those who work in the sector but it is a career that comes with huge pressure, isolation and demands on a daily basis.
“With the pressures that are facing the industry today, it is vital that everyone working within rural communities is encouraged to talk about mental health and that we work together to remove the stigma of tackling issues such as suicide, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues,” says Emma.
Through the DPJ (Daniel Picton-Jones) Foundation, which Emma set up soon after losing her husband and which is funded mainly by charitable donations, the foundation has been able to provide a 24/7 telephone helpline and texting service, manned by volunteers trained in MHFA, as well as fully-funded one-to-one counselling from qualified counsellors. Emma hopes that through the foundation’s MHFA training service, she and other approved trainers can reach more people working within the agriculture industry in Wales to spot the signs of poor mental health so that they know the basic steps to take and where to signpost individuals in need.
A proponent of the ‘ALGEE’ step-by-step process set out in a MHFA training manual published by ‘Training in Mind’, a Wales based social enterprise organisation, Emma’s training focuses on the importance of listening to anyone you think may be in need non-judgementally, because encouraging a person to ‘open up’ and be honest about how they are feeling, mentally, emotionally and physically is critical to signposting them to the help and support they need.
“The five basic steps of ALGEE are to “ASK about suicide and other mental health issues and assess the situation; to LISTEN non-judgementally; to GIVE reassurance and information; to ENCOURAGE the person to get appropriate help and support and to ENCOURAGE self-help strategies,”
“If people were not afraid to ask for help in the first place, many could recover quicker and never reach the terrifying lows often faced by individuals who feel isolated and unable to tell anyone how bad they actually feel,” says Emma.
Amongst many other awards and accolades received, last year Emma won a Pride of Britain award for her work to promote mental health issues in farming communities.
To learn how MHFA training could benefit your organisation, view the video here. Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes, is funded by Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
0800 587 4262
Tir Dewi (Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire)
0800 121 4722