A TEAM of Samaritans who attended a major agricultural machinery event last month noticed a change in attitude from people when it came to speaking about mental-health issues.

The Northern Farmer reported last month that the Samaritans would attend a number of agricultural and rural events this year as part of an initiative in the Yorkshire region partly prompted by the high suicide rate in the farming community.

The first event was the Yorkshire Agricultural Machinery Show (YAMS) at Murton, York, when 16 members went along, the second year that the Samaritans had attended the day.

David Moyles, regional rural support co-ordinator, said: “We noticed a discernible change, between last year and this year, in attitudes from visitors with regards to talking about mental health issues.

“We had numerous visits to us in which people spoke openly about their struggles or the struggles of family and/or friends with stress, depression and, sadly, suicidal thoughts.”

He said number of key points were common - most farmers had no idea that their occupation was a high suicide risk; most farmers identified their occupation as lonely, isolating, stressful and ‘bloody hard work’ for little reward; but no one drew a link between the latter points and suicide risk.

He added: “Almost everyone we spoke to knew, or knew of, a suicide victim amongst their family, friends, colleagues or community.

“One farmer said he had attended four funerals for victims of suicide.

“None of the ‘working’ farmers (as opposed to retirees) we spoke to considered themselves to be vulnerable to the ill effects of poor mental health or considered themselves to be in any danger of suicide.” David said he thought there was still a gap in understanding of the risks of suicide and more work to do.

n The Samaritans have 201 branches across the UK and Ireland, with more than 20,000 volunteers offering a 24-hour, seven-days-per-week freephone telephone service (116123) as well as SMS (07725 909090) and email (jo@samaritans.org) portals.

The Yorkshire and Humberside Region has 17 branches that are also open, at well publicised times, to receive callers who prefer to talk ‘face to face’.