Farming Community Network
The Farming Community Network (FCN) is a voluntary organisation and charity that supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times. FCN has over 400 volunteers, many of whom are involved in farming, or have close links with agriculture and therefore have a great understanding of the issues farm workers and farming families regularly face. FCN’s volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, whether the issue is personal or business-related.
How does your organisation contribute to preventing suicide and supporting those affected by it?
We encourage those living and working in farming and rural areas to seek support early, before issues escalate to a point where an individual may be experiencing suicidal feelings. We are also here to support those who are bereaved by suicide.
Trained FCN volunteers operate a telephone Helpline (03000 111 999 available daily 7am – 11pm) and an e-Helpline (firstname.lastname@example.org).
When things have reached a point where an individual is experiencing suicidal feelings, FCN will listen and support, and connect those individuals with specialist suicide prevention charities such as Samaritans.
We have over 400 volunteers organised in County Groups who are available to provide face-to-face support for individuals and families. Volunteers are offered a range of opportunities to improve their awareness and understanding of the risks of suicide including offering in-house training material, building relationships with their local Samaritan branches, attending ASIST training courses, and more recently participate in a discrete farmer focussed interventionist training course provided by a partnership with the Well Being Portal(Herts) called MAP+ (Myths Action Plan). MAP+ is also being offered more widely through other partners working with farmers and the rural community.
We have a specialist group of volunteers called Mental Wellbeing links in county Groups who monitor developments at a local level some of whom also liaise with national organisations. They help inform internal policy on suicide prevention.
We liaise and engage with specialist organisations working in the field of suicide prevention and contribute to their thinking about the specific issues facing the farming community. We offer information, training and support to the agricultural and allied industries to help them identify the trigger points in their work which might lead to suicidal feelings in their clients and inform policies and practices which might help mitigate those trigger points.
What are your current priorities?
FCN is regularly present at Agricultural Shows and events associated with the farming community. We take a positive approach with our messaging, highlighting the benefits of working in farming and encouraging the younger generation to want to work within the industry. Through our Rural+ training with The DPJ Foundation and NFYFC, we support young people in developing skills around managing their mental health and wellbeing and supporting those around them.
We provide appropriate information about the risk of suicide, raise awareness of the need for those experiencing suicidal feelings to seek help, and demonstrate what we can offer to help people. We promote the importance of asking for help when needed and not suffering in silence when things are becoming overwhelming or unmanageable.
We will continue the work we have already done with other Farming Help charities and with statutory agencies such as Natural England. We also provide information to vets, GP surgeries and other organisations which work with farmers.
Supporting our volunteers is essential to us. We provide chaplains in each County Group and we encourage each volunteer to debrief any case work they do where suicide is involved.
What challenges are you currently facing?
We are a generalist not a specialist organisation and so our work in suicide prevention is in the context of a wider work programme.
There is still a reluctance to discuss mental wellbeing issues within parts of the farming community, though the stigma is slowly being reduced. Many young farmers in particular view mental health as a serious issue and one that we need to talk openly about.
Reaching older generations of farmers, who may be less familiar with the terminology or may feel ‘mental ill-health’ has negative connotations or is a sign of weakness, can be challenging.
We intend to strengthen our links with livestock markets and other places where farmers gather in partnership with other agencies such as mental health and primary care teams and working with existing agricultural chaplains.