Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales, has called on the Welsh Government to secure greater support for agricultural markets to help safeguard farmers’ mental health.
Speaking in the Senedd on Wednesday 13th October, Mr Campbell, who is Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, identified the crucial role agricultural marts play in offering an opportunity for farmers and rural communities to socialise and interact – thus making a positive contribution towards their mental health.
Questioning the Welsh Government’s Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths MS, he cited a previous study from the Farm Safety Foundation that found 84% of farmers under 40 years of age considered mental health strains to be the biggest danger facing the agriculture industry.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mr Campbell said:
“Given their nature, rural communities can be very isolated, and as a result of the lack of opportunities for people to meet with others on a day-to-day basis, families can often suffer social isolation which can often lead to mental health problems.”
“A report commissioned by the Prince's Countryside Fund has outlined how agricultural markets can secure a more healthy future for farmers and rural communities as places where people can meet and socialise.”
He subsequently requested clarity on what support the Welsh Government had given to supporting mental health amongst farmers and to the economic and social role of rural markets.’
Responding, the Minister highlighted the growing challenges stemming from mental health in the agricultural community.
“Whilst the agricultural sector and farming communities are some of the most close-knit groups I've ever met, you can see that when you're on a farm you sometimes are a bit isolated. Particularly during the pandemic, I think that's certainly been highlighted. So, I've given significant funding to agriculture mental health charities.”
Citing the support the Welsh Government had provided to mental health charities such as the DPJ foundation, she also stated:
“I meet quite regularly with all the agricultural charities, and they all, I think, every single one of them—there were about half a dozen I met with regularly over the past 18 months—said that during the pandemic the referrals to them had increased. So, it's something I keep a very close eye on, and, if there's anything further I can do to help, I will certainly be happy to do so.”