NFU Mutual lends its support to mental health campaign in UK farming communities

15 February 2018

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NFU Mutual is a UK-based member of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF). The insurer offers a wide range of products, including general insurance, life, pensions, investments and risk management services, delivered through an agency network, as well as through a direct sales and service centre. With over 300 offices located in rural towns and villages throughout the UK, NFU Mutual is very much part of rural life in the UK and is committed to serving the needs of people who visit, live or work in the countryside.

Rising concern over the continuing high level of fatal and life-changing injury accidents on UK farms prompted NFU Mutual to set up a charitable foundation* in 2014 to help farmers work safely. NFU Mutual’s board pledged to provide financial support for the Farm Safety Foundation – including a GBP 500,000 donation for its first two years. The Farm Safety Foundation works closely with colleges and universities, young farmers clubs and a range of farming organisations across the UK to raise awareness of farm safety and challenge and change the risk-taking behaviours in the next generation of farmers. Over time this will hopefully create a behavioural change in the industry and reduce the excessively high numbers of life-changing and life-ending accidents in UK farming.

This week the Farm Safety Foundation is running a campaign entitled “Mind your head” to promote awareness of mental health prevalence in the UK farming industry and to provide information where people can seek help. Through the week-long campaign the Foundation will be sharing some incredibly touching stories, inspirational journeys and a powerful and poignant new social media film.

Whilst UK farmers are renowned for the attention they give to their livestock, crops and machinery, unfortunately they do not have such a good track record when it comes to taking care of themselves and their own wellbeing says the Foundation. Levels of depression are thought to be increasing and more than one farmer a week takes their own life according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

The situation is compounded by the fact that farming tends to be an innately conservative culture in the UK and there is often stigma and taboo attached to mental health. According to the Foundation this can hinder people’s willingness to speak about the issue and to seek help for themselves.

The campaign seeks to:

  • Raise awareness of the farming community being one of the industries worst affected by depression and suicide.
  • Increase understanding of how to support those dealing with mental health issues
  • Educate audiences on how to support those affected and the sources of help, advice and guidance from organisations in the local area

NFU Mutual are giving their full support for the campaign. According to Lindsay Sinclair (pictured with Stephanie Berkley of the Farm Safety Foundation), Group Chief Executive: “NFU Mutual has been closely connected to the countryside, farmers and their families for over a century. As part of the very fabric of rural life, we know that the joy of the countryside can disguise a very difficult situation: rural isolation.”

He added: “It is often assumed that elderly people are the worst affected by rural isolation, but we have found that under 25s can be just as vulnerable as over-65s. This can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems which can, in turn, increase the sense of loneliness. NFU Mutual is proud to support the Farm Safety Foundation in this #MindYourHead campaign, get people talking about something that can be seen as a taboo subject and signpost sources of help for all our members and those who live and work in our beautiful countryside.”

The Farm Safety Foundation says that the purpose of this campaign is to encourage conversations and address the stigma surrounding mental wellbeing. The hope is that the campaign will spark discussion and encourage people in these rural communities to look out for each other, reminding farmers to “Mind Your Head’ and letting them know that there are organisations out there who want to help.

*Registered Charity No. 1159000

For member-only strategic content on the cooperative/mutual insurance sector, ICMIF members have exclusive access to a range of online resources through the ICMIF Knowledge Hub.

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