Like many professional service-providers YANA works with, as a fellow farmer, landowner or rural advisor you are well-placed to spot signs of mental crisis and start an important conversation.
YANA is rooted in East Anglia, helping to sustain the mental health of those working in the countryside.
Here’s where you come in: we can all do much better at looking after ourselves or those we care about when it comes to good mental health. Too often those living and working in rural areas suffer with depression or other symptoms of poor mental health. The financial, physical, and mental pressures in businesses that supply and service agriculture can overwhelm.
Need to overcome reluctance to talk
Many involved in agricultural and rural businesses are reluctant to seek help for depression, anxiety, or
if they are struggling to cope. Talking about problems, seeking help, and finding ways to contribute to problem-solving can make it so much easier to cope and make a real improvement to quality of life. That’s why YANA is raising awareness of how to notice when others might be struggling to cope and help them to access support. There are ways that you can help.
Notice the signs that someone is not coping well
- Distant and distracted
- Lack of interest or motivation
- Change in appearance or personality
- Making arrangements for financial matters and possessions
- Negative talk or outlook on life
- Being over-the-top to compensate for negative feelings and thoughts
We do not always know people well enough to notice signs of anxiety or depression, and at times people hide their true feelings. This is why asking people how they are is important. Not just asking but also being ready to listen carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask twice and make eye contact if it feels OK to do so.
- Always check that the space you are in is right for you and for them to talk. Is being outdoors more appropriate?
- Doing something, or going for a walk, can be a good way to talk.
- Practice active listening to hear rather than to respond. Repeat back what you have heard to clarify what they have told you. This helps them as much as you.
- Ask questions to get a better understanding of how they are right now. Using open questions avoids one-word answers.
- Don’t be judgemental. Try not to criticise, instead use positive and acknowledging language. Offer reassurance and hope such as ‘It may be difficult right now, but it won’t always be this way.’
If you are concerned about someone feeling suicidal, be direct, ask them if they have had thoughts about suicide, self harm or ending their life. If they have, a conversation with you can bring relief. If they have not, it will not put the idea in their head.
If they disclose to you that they have had suicidal thoughts, stay calm and seek help by calling an organisation like the Samaritans.
What to do when someone has opened up
- Encourage professional help: seeing a GP, contacting YANA or other support organisations.
- Explore who else can offer support such as family and friends. Who do they trust and feel safe with? Who do they think will listen when they need to talk?
- Try to agree a plan by clarifying what they are going to do and if they need help doing it. Are they going to make an appointment? Talk to a family member? Make time to do something they enjoy that they have stopped doing.
- If appropriate, tell them you will check in with them and when you will do this, so they know they have not been left on their own.
- Be aware of your own stress levels and mental health.
- Create time to reflect and notice how you are feeling.
- Identify who is in your support network.
- Take time for yourself to do things that you enjoy.
YANA’s funded Mental Health First Aid training provides knowledge and practical skills to spot the signs and help someone to get the right help. Find out more at www.yanahelp.org.
A call to our helpline 0300 323 0400 will reach someone who can give practical help and arrange sessions with one of our counsellors who know the reality of rural life and work.
Everyone can play a part. Share the good news that there are many ways to improve poor mental health. That’s why we want YANA information in every rural business in East Anglia. Can you help with that? In the meantime, use our advice and start those important conversations.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at June 2022.