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Mental Wellbeing - Vice President Blog - 16 October 2020

Covid-19 has affected everyone this year and Scotland’s farmers and crofters are no different. This Ag Mental Health Week, Vice President Martin Kennedy is asking members to think about their neighbours and colleagues who might be feeling isolated because of the Covid-19 restrictions

There’s no doubt that in many ways throughout this current pandemic, the agricultural industry has fared much better than many other industries. Unfortunately, food security only seems to be at the top of people’s minds when the country is facing a disaster. However, I do believe that this time round there will be a much longer lasting realisation that we need to look at food security much more seriously in the future.

It’s bitterly disappointing that those who voted on the Lord’s amendment to the agriculture bill on Monday night did not vote in the interests of their constituents who put them in power. Let’s hope they come to their senses and take one last chance to redeem themselves.

Looking at other industries, it must be very worrying for many who right now have either lost their job or are indeed looking at the possibility of not being in work as we get closer to the end of the year. Both Westminster and the Scottish Government have a real challenge on their hands, trying to get on top of the virus, but at the same time trying to keep the economy going. Regardless of the politics the right decision going forward is not an easy one. If it was, then we, as most other countries across the globe, would not be on top of this mess right now.  

The knock-on effect of this has an inevitable detrimental effect on people’s health and wellbeing. Mental health is a topic that’s being talked about more and more often, and this can only be a good thing as it helps to destigmatise the subject and highlight how much of an issue it is through all walks of life.  

I said at the start that agriculture itself hasn’t suffered too badly during this pandemic, however it is having an increasingly negative effect on the wellbeing of many individual farmers and crofters throughout the country,  as issues such as loneliness and the uncertainties over our industry’s future start to take its toll.

This week was Ag Mental Health Week and this gives us a further opportunity to raise awareness of how important it is for all of us to do our part in making sure our friends and neighbours are ok.

Many people live in a pretty isolated situation, by that I don’t just mean remote I also mean isolated from meeting people. This has been exacerbated this year with the lack of local shows and the inability to hold regular social events that we are all missing.

Organisations like RSABI do a fantastic job of talking to and helping individuals who feel they have nowhere to turn to. Sadly their workload is increasing and their ability to raise funds has been curtailed considerably as many of the usual fundraising activities have also been cancelled, so I would urge as many people as possible to become a RSABI supporter to help them to help others who are finding it difficult.

As Ag Mental Health Week comes to a close, and we are hopefully more aware of how serious an issue this is, please remember it’s not just this week that we should be reaching out. Every week of the year we should be looking out for friends and neighbours, especially those who we think might be struggling. We can all do our bit.  

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin Vice President of NFU Scotland and is a tenant farmer in Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters, Jillian, Katrina and Yvonne. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to over 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch chairman, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin then went on to be vice chairman then chaired the committee for three years. He has served as Vice President of NFUS for two years and is currently sitting on his third.

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