My practice

    Our team offers a mental health outreach service directly to the agricultural community of mid- and south Staffordshire. Most of our clients respond to the capabilities of the workers in the team rather than to where that support comes from, or to the courses attended or qualifications attained.

    The strength of the Rural Emotional Support Team (Rest, Staffordshire) comes from the way we seek to provide a culturally sensitive service, based on the assertive outreach model, and delivered from the non-statutory sector. Many of our clients either have never seen, or have refused contact with, statutory services because of the attached stigma, inflexible methods of engagement, and a perception that such services are ignorant of the farming way of life and culture.

    Based at the Staffordshire county showground, we have developed a service that is not only providing definite outcomes but is embraced by the community it serves. Our team of four come from a variety of backgrounds, including mental health. But more importantly, they have agricultural backgrounds and knowledge that enable us to develop meaningful and valued relationships. Indeed, the team was recruited according to capability and value rather than the amount of courses attended.

    Our work focuses upon values. We recognise that people’s values and problems differ enormously. Everyone has an individual care plan which may not focus immediately upon the obvious mental health problem, but will search with the client for the causes of their difficulties. Once we have agreed these, we work on the solutions – also agreed – with the client.

    Many solutions focus upon short-term change which the client can grasp. Others include evidence-based practices such as solution-focus work, stress vulnerability, family work, medication management, and education towards positive mental health.

    Referrals and case completions are up, and we are also collaborating with colleagues in statutory agencies and other farming-related services.

    Although statutory bodies do provide an effective service to clients experiencing emotional and mental health problems, clients of Rest say they receive a meaningful service targeted at their level and culture. We are not burdened by bureaucratic policy, but rather champion positive and collaborative risk-taking. The capabilities we look for in a team member are directly derived from the cultural, social and health needs of the client group.

    We listen to clients’ viewpoints and recognise what is meaningful and valued to them. For our clients, this is a service that is accessible, culturally sensitive, and provided at a time and place chosen by the client themselves.

    Chris Coates is team leader, Rural Emotional Support Team (Staffordshire).

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