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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 23:48 GMT 00:48 UK
Mental help for foot-and-mouth areas
field
The charity is supplying grants to the worst-hit areas
Rural communities left psychologically devastated by months battling food-and-mouth disease could be helped by grants totalling 250,000.

The charity Rural Minds will target the money at the areas hardest hit by the virus.

Half the money was directly donated by the public, and this was matched by funds from the Countryside Agency.

The charity has warned that the long-term effects of the crisis will be considerable on the mental health of the communities involved.

Anxiety

A number of suicides among farmers have been blamed on the impact of foot-and-mouth on their livelihoods.

Amy Woodhouse, from Rural Minds, told BBC News Online: "There are three ways in which this disease has had mental health implications.

"Firstly there is the anxiety and worry people are facing about the future - that has been going on for more than six months now.

"Then there is the isolation involved - people can't simply go down the pub with friends to have a drink and talk things over.

"And then there is the psychological impact of the mass slaughter. We are particularly concerned about the impact of this on children."

First aid kit

The charity has already been handing out a "first aid kit" of hints and advice. The number of requests for material of this kind has been large.

Now the worst affected areas, namely County Durham, Cumbria, Devon, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire will be allocated grants of more than 10,000 each.

Local voluntary organisations can apply for the money and use it to set up self-help groups or courses in stress management.

Other affected areas can apply for grants to "improve awareness" of issues such as depression, anxiety and stress.

To apply for one of the grants or for a free set of booklets, Rural Minds can be contacted on (0247) 641 4366, or at ruralminds@ruralnet.org.uk.

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