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Tackling Mental Health and Wellbeing in Rural Communities – Jim Hume Guest Blog

Working and living rurally can often be isolating at the best of times, but with the Covid crisis this has only accentuated that problem, and we know that isolation can lead to poorer mental health. Many of us have been unable to meet our family, friends, and colleagues in this last year and that has taken its toll. Research has clearly shown that more people experienced poor mental health in 2020 and that individuals want to be supported in their communities, whether that is where they live, their workplace, or their interest group. It is therefore everyone’s business to tackle mental health.

That is perhaps easier said than done for some, as it is often not obvious when someone may be struggling, but there are signs that we can look out for. This can include changes in someone’s behaviour - perhaps they are not as talkative as before, grumpy, quiet, angry, introverted, not socialising, or answering calls or mail. Any of these are possible signs, and it is important to remember that poor mental health can affect anyone.

If you suspect someone is struggling, approach them and ask if they are okay. If you are not positive that they gave an honest answer, persevere and ask them again. You will not make the situation worse. If they do state that they have poor mental health then do not jump to trying to find a solution that day, it is more complex than that. Listen, understand, empathise - be there for that person. It is also important to know where to go to find help for those suffering, and to signpost them where to go. You can find a comprehensive list of organisations that can help here - www.ruralwellbeing.org/get-help/.

What else can you and should you do? I would advise partaking in the National Rural Mental Health Forum, which since Covid has been holding twice monthly online seminars on mental health and wellbeing. You will find best practice being shared, collaboration with organisations with expertise in mental health, and the opportunity for you to feed in issues from your communities and networks. These seminars and their registration details can all be found at the following link. They are free and you are welcome to attend - www.ruralwellbeing.org/upcoming-events.

It is everyone’s business to tackle mental health and wellbeing, and now it is more important than ever to do so. I hope you can join us on our endeavour.

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