A GROUP has been set up to help farmers struggling with mental health issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

It aims to equip people visiting farms with the resources to support farmers with mental health issues.

The Somerset Mental Health in Agriculture Group (SMHAG) has teamed up with mental health professional Becky Wright, of New Leaf, to create the initiative.

She said: "Farming is one of the loneliest industries in which to work.

"With the added financial and political challenges, most of which cannot be influenced by the farmer, it is no wonder that the industry experiences one of the highest levels of poor mental health.

"We hope that this group, our first project, and others that will follow, will provide some tools to support those closest to the farmers to seek the right help and guidance."

Becky initiated SMAGH following a similar project she had developed for the construction industry.

The idea is that people visiting farms will have resources available to them to be able to communicate with farmers about mental health, or to be able to signpost them to places of support.

Group member and NFU Somerset county advisor Lydia Cox said: “We need to get the messages out as far and as wide as we can, so while I can get the information out to our NFU members, we are looking for anyone or any other organisation who has access to the farming community to get in touch with us, to help us to help them."

SMAGH includes representatives from a range of support organisations who have the sole aim of supporting the farming community through its challenges.#

They are developing a range of tools so the farming community can identify and support farmers who may be struggling to cope with the vagaries of farming life and whose mental health is deteriorating.

The first project developed by the group is a pocket-sized Z-card information flyer that sets out some of the symptoms of mental health and what to look out for in a family member, colleague or friend.

It contains information of who can help – the Farming Community Network, the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and the Samaritans.

The next project to be launched by the group later this year is a collection of short film clips highlighting the issue of mental health in agriculture and which will be shown at events and distributed via social media.