Mental health staff in Cumbria stand by

Mental health workers at Cumbria social services department are
ready to offer counselling to distressed farming families and
others affected by the foot and mouth crisis.

As the number of cases of the disease in the county almost
doubled last week, the council held the first meeting of its new
task force (News, page 4, 15 March). Its aim is to examine ways of
overcoming the social care and economic consequences of the

Kate Braithwaite, chief executive of Voluntary Action Cumbria
and a task force member, outlined the social perspective of foot
and mouth at the meeting.

She said: “Our feeling is that many of the families have no
great tradition of linking into benefits or social services. They
depend on informal support systems. They need to be made aware that
they can access this kind of help.”

Braithwaite’s organisation runs the Cumbria Stress Information
Network, which includes the Samaritans, Mind, local health
authorities, Citizen’s Advice Bureaux and mental health workers.
The network’s phoneline, which normally receives about two calls a
week, is now open 24 hours a day and calls are coming in non-stop
round the clock, said Braithwaite.

Cumbria Council has also set up a dedicated number that anyone
can call with inquiries about council services including home care

Helplines all over the country are extending their lines to run
round the clock. The Rural Stress Information Network gives initial
support and then signposts callers to other services. Counselling
needs to be free if farmers are to take advantage of it, said
network director Caroline Davies.

“There are so many different blends of problems leading to
people’s distress. We need to have a network with a number of
different support services and counselling is an important part of
that,” she added.

A government task force set up to help the rural economy recover
from the foot and mouth outbreak was expected to report on its
progress today as the number of cases nationally rose to more than

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