RuralMinds, the countryside arm of the mental health charity
Mind, is calling on the government to draw up strategies to meet
the immediate and long-term mental health needs of rural
communities “traumatised” by the foot and mouth crisis.
Last week, the charity warned that the long-term effects of the
epidemic would have a considerable impact on the mental health of
farmers and others living in the countryside.
It is working to distribute mental health information out to
people in rural areas and has printed 100,000 copies of a special
version of the RuralMinds First Aid Kit, which offers help on how
to recognise the first signs of mental distress and advice on how
to deal with it.
The group has also been running workshops on depression for the
Farm Crisis Network and making bulk supplies of depression and
mental health booklets available to the Rural Stress Information
Development manager for RuralMinds Keith Elder said: “The
disease is causing widespread anxiety and distress. For farmers
whose animals have been slaughtered, the experience can be
extremely traumatic, but many thousands of others whose livelihoods
face ruin are also in deep shock about the crisis.
“Our experience tells us that mental health support services
rarely extend into rural communities. We want farming communities
to know that Mind is behind them at this difficult time.”
Meanwhile, the director of public health in north Cumbria, Peter
Tiplady, told Cumbria’s foot and mouth task force earlier this week
that the fallout from the foot and mouth crisis in the region can
be likened to a natural disaster.
He said that many people will need professional support to cope
with stress and mental health problems resulting from the crisis.
Their recovery could take up to three years.
Cumbria is bearing the brunt of the crisis and outbreaks topped
460 this week. Its taskforce was due to ask for special assistance
from the government’s rural task force as Community Care
went to press. This includes a plea for extra money to support the
newly formed health and social care impacts team set up to help
those affected by physical and mental health problems.