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Farming feature: Spotting the crucial signs that farmers are suffering from stress

PUBLISHED: 17:28 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:28 08 March 2019

Tthe group on the YANA course with Digby Chacksfield (back right)  Picture: JOHN NICE

Tthe group on the YANA course with Digby Chacksfield (back right) Picture: JOHN NICE

John Nice

A new bid to help members of Suffolk’s farming community suffering from mental anguish took a big step forward this week with a training initiative for those involved in the industry.

Emma Saccomani (Healthy Work Company) and Digby Chacksfield (Rural Enterprise East) with delegates from YANA course in the background  Picture: JOHN NICEEmma Saccomani (Healthy Work Company) and Digby Chacksfield (Rural Enterprise East) with delegates from YANA course in the background Picture: JOHN NICE

Around 20 young farmers, college lecturers, police and clergy members gathered at the Otley campus of Easton and Otley College for a two day mental health first aid course on Monday, March 4, and Tuesday, March 5.

The event was hosted by the land college’s Rural Enterprise East facility and organised by the YANA (You are Not Alone) Project, which helps people in farming who may be affected by stress and depression.

MORE – Crunch time as pig farm incomes plummet to just £1k

Delegates learnt how to recognise signs of anxiety and distress, and the course highlighted the importance of communication, self-care and signposting.

Emma Saccomani, the mental health first aid trainer who led the course, delivered it on behalf of the Healthy Work Company, an organisation which has previously worked with YANA to share vital messages around mental health.

Digby Chacksfield (Rural Enterprise EAST) and Sally Ann Muldoon (YANA)  Picture: JOHN NICEDigby Chacksfield (Rural Enterprise EAST) and Sally Ann Muldoon (YANA) Picture: JOHN NICE

“We had a fantastic group participating in the training at Otley,” she said. “The group had some understanding of the challenges of mental health and this helped to reinforce the importance of the course.”

Principal Jane Townsend said it meant “a great deal” to her and to the college to be able to team up with YANA to combat the issue, which she had encountered through her dealings with the farming community.

“Our staff gained YANA training in Norfolk and now we are delighted to be able to have hosted this event in Suffolk,” she said. “During my time in the region, I regularly speak to our wonderful farming community and sometimes – unfortunately – the impact of depression, stress and mental health within the industry comes up in discussions that we have.”

But thanks to organisations like YANA, and a new spirit of openness, more people were being trained to look out for tell-tale signs so they could offer help and advice to those who need it, she said.

Jenny Maskell (delegate and representative from Suffolk Young Farmers  Picture: JOHN NICEJenny Maskell (delegate and representative from Suffolk Young Farmers Picture: JOHN NICE

“That is why we are proud to have hosted this event,” she said. “We look forward to continuing to build links with YANA so that we can work together to support individuals, families and the community as a whole in relation to this issue.”

Organiser Sally Ann Muldoon, Suffolk co-ordinator for YANA, said the aim was to try to get a range of people from different backgrounds to become YANA ambassadors in order to highlight support available for those working in the farming community.

“The Rural Enterprise East centre at the college has been excellent. It has fantastic facilities, and has welcomed us as a diverse group of delegates. It helps us to raise awareness to those working in the rural sector, and to recognise that support is available and ‘You Are Not Alone’.”

Jenny Maskell, Suffolk Young Farmers fielworker said the course had been “eye-opening and interesting” and other Young Farmer members praised the course.

Ele Williamson at the YANA course  Picture: JOHN NICEEle Williamson at the YANA course Picture: JOHN NICE

“More people seem to be suffering from mental health issues so it’s important to know what to do if the situation comes up in work and life,” said Ele Williamson, while Richard Branch, who was involved in organising a charity tractor run which raised £700 for YANA, said he thought it was a “great” organisation. “I came on the course to learn more and find ways of helping people within the farming community. I would highly recommend the course.”

Head of student services at Otley, Belinda Deacon, said some staff had attended, and the college would continue a focus on mental health issues throughout the year.

Digby Chacksfield, director of operations at Rural Enterprise East (REE), said: “We are delighted to be working with YANA. They are doing a great thing by highlighting mental health issues. Their work in training people who are out and about in the farming community to be able to spot crucial signs of those affected by stress and depression within the industry.

“In addition to our work with YANA, REE has fortnightly meet-up sessions for those who have worked in the armed forces or emergency services, offering them the chance to hang out and connect with each other. I have recently worked with a range of support agencies within the agricultural region, recognising the benefits of positive health and well-being practices.”

Richard Branch at the YANA event  Picture: JOHN NICERichard Branch at the YANA event Picture: JOHN NICE

To contact YANA, phone 0300 323 0400 or email johoey@yanahelp.org

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