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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 18:30 GMT
Help for stressed foot-and-mouth farmers
Cattle pyre during the Foot and Mouth outbreak at a Devon farm
Farmers were under unprecedented stress
Farmers who faced one of the worst years of their lives in the foot-and-mouth crisis are being helped with an injection of cash to groups offering them support.

The mental health charity MIND launched a public appeal which was matched by the Countryside Agency to bring in 250,000 for the farming community.

A total of 10 rural projects across the country will receive up to 10,400 with 11 others getting up to 2,600.

Foot and Mouth notice after an outbreak was confirmed in Settle N. Yorkshire
Many people were isolated for long periods of time

The money will enable help and support to be targeted at the rural communities that have been the most devastated by the foot and mouth crisis.

Farmer Brian Armstrong said: "Last year was a horrific year for farming communities.

Suicidal feelings

"People may think that, now the crisis is over, we don't need any more help. But, though many families are coping remarkably well, and are feeling positive, there is still a lot of grief and stress about.

Although there is no statistical data, MIND says there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of farmers and the farming community suffering stress and depression - even suicidal feelings - because of the foot and mouth crisis.

Dr Peter Tiplady, from the North Cumbria Health Authority, said: "The economic and mental effects of foot-and-mouth are quite exceptional.

"There have been some attempted suicides we've heard about and probably some successful suicides among the farming community."

Children have been affected too - many have witnesses burning piles of dead animals close to their home or were sent away from home if the crisis caused their farm to go into quarantine.

The projects are aimed at tackling mental health problems in rurally isolated areas in unique ways - helping to reduce feelings of isolation that add to stress, anxiety, and depression.

One of the beneficiaries is the Okehampton and District Council for Voluntary Services, which is based five miles from the centre of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Devon.

Projects to benefit
Walk-in support and help-line in Devon
Village hall 'road shows' in Northumberland
Local 'befrienders' in Worcestershire
Helping rural families in East Cumbria
Mental health help video in Staffordshire
Aromatherapy and reflexology in village inns in Cumbria
Socials and courses in computing in Upper Teasdale
Information and telephone support in Lancashire
Health spa visits, music or complementary therapy session in N Yorkshire
First aid kit and mental health directory in Herefordshire

Chairman of the council Barry Duke said: "What we aim to do is signpost farmers suffering from stress to where they can find help - so that they can cope and not sink."

He said many farmers found themselves under unprecedented emotional stress due to both the loss of their livelihood and the pressure of living in isolated conditions.

He had direct experience when some of the cows he looked after for a local farmer were found to be at risk and had to be shot. He himself was isolated for a number of weeks because of the outbreak.

Rise in stress

He said: "That experience recedes into the distance but for many farmers they are under the sheer mental stress of trying to cope in an industry which is finding it hard to focus on where it is going."

Some farmers will have been compensated but there are others and people within the industry who will get nothing.

"But they too have had no access to markets throughout the year and I think their levels of stress are now likely to rise," he said.

He said the money will be used to help run a walk-in service at farmers' markets and a help-line. His organisation is hoping to add to this with volunteer outreach workers.

Through these schemes we want to tell them it is okay to feel stress having gone through such a terrible ordeal

MIND spokesperson
All the projects aim to stop more serious mental health problems from developing by focusing on mental health prevention.

Early intervention for mental distress in rural areas remains crucial.

Mind has warned that the long-term effects of the foot-and-mouth crisis will have a considerable impact on the mental health of the farming communities and those living in the countryside for many years to come.

A spokesperson for the charity said: "Farmers are very self-sufficient and find it hard to admit to mental health problems.

"Through these schemes we want to tell them it is okay to feel stress having gone through such a terrible ordeal.

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20 Dec 00 | Health
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