Suffolk and Norfolk: Farm mental health charity YANA expands to cover county

A CHARITY set up in 2008 to promote mental health awareness amongst the Norfolk farming community is branching out into Suffolk.

YANA (You Are Not Alone) Co-ordinator, Jo Hoey, said: “The project has been very well received by the farming community and medical professionals across Norfolk and we feel confident that it will prove just as useful in Suffolk.”

The YANA Project provides a support service for those in farming affected in any way by stress and depression. Depression is a common, but often unspoken, problem in the industry.

The Project was so named because if you suffer from depression, You Are Not Alone – so many people are affected by it, and You Are Not Alone because good help is available.

In less than four years, 40,000 leaflets have been distributed to GPs, health professionals, land agents, agricultural engineers, the WI, Young Farmers, Agricultural Secretaries, and professional businesses.

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The leaflets and the website explain, in lay terms, the signs and symptoms of depression and encourage the sufferers of depression, or those close to them, to seek appropriate help promptly, and ideally with their own GP.

Jo Hoey explained “Depression is an illness not a weakness. Current figures suggest that one in five people in the UK will suffer from depression at some point, whatever their work or background.

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“However, it is particularly common in the farming industry due to a number of factors such as economic problems, weather, increased regulation, animal diseases and workplace isolation.

“The problem is that those who work in agriculture are often reluctant to seek help. YANA believes the first step on the road to recovery is acknowledging the problem, whether talking to family, friends, a GP or just making that first confidential call to the charity.”

“Talking about your problems, and seeking help, can make it easier to cope and improve your quality of life – and you soon realise how many people you know have also been diagnosed with depression at some point.

The best course of action is to see your own doctor, and be honest about how you feel. Depression and stress are common problems and your GP can provide support, referral to counselling or medication.”

Some are reluctant to see their own doctor, others might want additional support or just someone to talk to, and by ringing the YANA helpline you can speak to someone who really understands the industry and its problems.

YANA can also provide support from its own sympathetic GPs and counsellors.

Anything discussed is “off the record” and totally confidential.

Non means-tested funding for counselling is available to those who live in Norfolk or in Suffolk and are involved in the broad farming community - this includes farming family members, farm staff, agricultural contractors and Young Farmers.

For those who are worried about a family member or friend, the charity suggests listening to their concerns, being supportive and respecting their confidence.

Most importantly, encourage them to seek professional advice and also offer to go with them if it would help.

The charity also advises on the action to take if someone is in crisis and possibly considering suicide.

Jo said: “If this is the case, don’t be afraid to make a call or raise concerns – by doing so, you could be saving someone’s life.

“You can contact their GP, and inform them it’s urgent, or you can contact the Samaritans or the Maytree Centre which is a residential sanctuary for the suicidal which doesn’t need medical referral.

“In addition to this, try not to leave the person on their own, but show them you genuinely care.”

With financial and other practical problems often being a trigger for depression, the charity works with other excellent support services available to the farming community, including RABI, FCN and the Rural Stress Helpline.

More information on YANA is available from their website,, whilst confidential support to those in the farming community is also available on the YANA helpline, 0300 323 0400, or by emailing

‘Depression is an illness, not a weakness’

It is four years since the YANA Project was set up.

In that time, thanks to the work of this valuable little charity, the Norfolk Farming Community has become more aware of the importance of mental health, of seeing a doctor promptly when depression raises its head, and of the fact that depression is all too common and there is no stigma in acknowledging this illness. YANA’s doctors, counsellors and helpline have been there to listen and support, not just those with depression, but anyone involved in farming in anyway whose life is affected by it.

All calls are “off the record” and totally confidential. YANA has a presence at every farming event in the county. Every GP surgery has YANA literature. Leaflets and posters, distributed in their thousands, have reminded us that “Depression is an illness, not a weakness”.

Sometimes the going gets so tough, that some think that life is not worth living.

The revamped YANA website gives us advice on what to do when we are seriously concerned about someone who might be at the edge, including advice on removing firearms and other risk factors, contacting the person’s own doctor, or the whereabouts of a respite centre, which needs no medical referral, but offers a short stay in a safe residential setting where the desperate can talk, reflect and rest - and restore hope.

YANA has launched the new website together with a new dedicated telephone number – 0300 323 0400 (although calls are still taken on the original number as well). YANA is moving across the border into Suffolk as well so that the farming community there might benefit.

We should all be aware of this illness, its symptoms and the actions that can be taken to begin recovery.

It could affect any one of us at any time, but with a bit of knowledge we can be more aware not just for ourselves, but also for our friends - and reach out and offer the hand of support.

The YANA website is informative for us all. Showing we care could be the first step to recovery: at a difficult time it is so important to know “You Are Not Alone”.

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