SCOTLAND’S farmers should be vigilant for signs of suicidal thoughts among colleagues and continue to make it their business to tackle mental health issues, an NFUS conference in Inverurie heard on Thursday, 7 November.

Keynote speaker Jim Hume, convenor of the National Rural Mental Health Forum and Director of Policy and Public Affairs with Support in Mind Scotland, told delegates at the inaugural NFUS North East Mental Health conference: “There has since been a real awakening to the effects of poor mental health and the damage it can do to the farming and wider rural sector in recent years.

“There are signs we can all look out for in our family, friend and farming circles; such as changes in someone’s behaviour, becoming anxious, having mood swings, having more problems with work and saying negative things about themselves.”

Mr Hume, a former hill farmer and MSP, added: “If you believe that there is a threat to life, then remember that not everyone who thinks about suicide will tell someone, look for signs. Be honest. Tell the person why you're worried about them, and do ask if they’ve thought about suicide. Listening is one of the most helpful things you can do.

“Help them access professional support and remember to take care of yourself and discuss your feelings with a friend or a support service, as it can affect you when you help others. Share the load."

Mr Hume applauded NFUS for recognising the importance of good mental health for the farming community and making it their business to do what they can to help.

"Everyone is making it their business to tackle mental health. Make it your business."

The NFUS are among the founding members of the Rural Forum, which is led by national mental health charity Support in Mind Scotland. Membership has grown from 20 organisations to 140 in 30 months. All are dedicated to improve mental health and wellbeing across rural Scotland.

The Inverurie event, chaired by NFUS chief executive Scott Walker, also featured speakers Chris Littlejohn of NHS Grampian and Professor Liz Hancock of Robert Gordon University, who talked about the work being undertaken in the North East to help better understand the magnitude and scale of the challenge farming faces. 

The evening also included a presentation from rural charity RSABI’s Welfare Manager Mags Granger, who outline the important work which RSABI deliver to support the farming industry.