Mental health: Life advisors for 'lonely and isolated' farmers

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Media captionFarmers on the edge

Farmers across the country who are suffering with loneliness and isolation are to be offered more support from the Church in Wales.

The Church says that cases of depression among farmers are increasing.

It formed a helpline called Tir Dewi in west Wales four years ago which has helped 200 farmers.

It will now appoint "rural-life advisors" in every diocese area to help those struggling with countryside life.

The Venerable Eileen Davies, Archdeacon of Ceredigion and one of the founders of Tir Dewi, said the local church was often the only public building left open in many small, rural villages.

Image caption Archdeacon Eileen Davies is one of the founders of Tir Dewi

"We see a need undoubtedly from all the different farmers we've been talking to, realising that they need somebody to lend them a confidential listening ear and an opportunity to lend them a hand to point them in the right way," she said.

"Because whatever problems they face more often than not it is far better to share that problem."

There are currently around 30 rural advisers in the St Davids diocese who visit farmers' markets regularly where they are on hand to offer help.

'It's a lonely job'

Image caption John James experienced depression 30 years ago

John James, a farmer in Carmarthenshire in his 70s, is a supporter of Tir Dewi after experiencing depression 30 years ago, at a time when awareness of mental health was far lower than it is now.

Referring to the countryside near his farm Mr James said: "When you look around you couldn't think of a better office to work from.

"But it is a lonely job and I can assure you it's not all cream, far from it."

He said his depression was brought on by a combination of physical pain caused by farming and the stress of the job: "There was nothing there I could pinpoint - I never had any tablets or medicine, it's just you had to battle things but now at least you can talk about it."

One of Tir Dewi's volunteers, Eirios Thomas, said the reasons farmers were asking for help varied.

"It can be TB, it can be loneliness - it can be anything. The message is there's always help available. Nothing is so dark that people can't solve it.

"Somebody somewhere will be able to help that person and solve whatever is a worry."

The agriculture unions - NFU Cymru and the FUW - recognise that addressing the risks of poor mental health in farming communities is a priority.

Staff from both unions have received mental health awareness training in recent months.

Mr James said people needed to make use of the help available.

"I didn't do it when I was in a bad state, I never talked to people," he added.

"That's why I'm prepared to make it clear that I've been through a bad experience and I've come through it. Now if you are in a bad situation, please talk to somebody."

For details of organisations which offer advice and support, go to BBC Action Line.

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