Devon Young Farmers Club (YFC) is inviting discussion on mental health in the agricultural industry in the fourth of their online agri-debates.

The virtual debate is titled ‘How can we combat rural isolation and impacts on mental health?’ and will take place on Thursday, September 24 at 7:30pm. It is free to watch.

YouGov research, commissioned by the charity Samaritans into how the pandemic affected the mental health of men, showed nearly half (45 per cent) of men aged 20-59 in rural communities in Great Britain agree that they have experienced feelings of anxiety during lockdown. Over half (59 per cent) say they feel worried about the future.

Around a third (32 per cent) of men aged 20-59 in rural communities say that talking to others helped with concerns and worries they had during lockdown, showing the importance of seeking help and getting support when they need it.

Devon YFC are bringing together a panel to tackle the topical issue, share the importance of talking about mental health, and discuss how farmers can support each other.

Chaired by David Fursdon, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, the panellists are PC Martin Beck, rural affairs officer for Devon & Cornwall Police; Alice Giles, 2019 Devon YFC chairman who advocated mental health training to all clubs in Devon whilst she was in post; Joanne Jones, assistant coordinator for The Farming Community Network in Devon; and Ruth Poulten, CSR consultant for NFU Mutual.

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The online debate is part of a series of sessions organised by Devon YFC and NFU Mutual, bringing together experts from all aspects of farming and agriculture to discuss topical issues and share best practice.

Helen Bellew, Devon YFC agri chairman, said: “With long hours, stresses of busy farming environments and rural isolation just some of the issues farmers may face, we wanted to highlight the importance of looking after your own mental health and ensuring those around you are ok too – research has shown just how much talking to each other can help.

“It’s not something that’s limited just to men or just to farming, mental health issues can touch anyone and, for many, have been exacerbated by lockdown. We feel it an important topic to discuss with our members and the wider farming community.”

The debate is supported by NFU Mutual. Ruth Poulten, corporate social responsibility consultant at NFU Mutual said: “This mental health debate is very timely. The Covid-19 pandemic has created new and increasing challenges for our rural communities across the generations, something which we’re acutely aware of.

"Our members have told us about feeling trapped inside their homes, unable to engage in their usual daily activities, the strain of juggling work and family life, financial pressures due to job losses or furlough. "Poor rural broadband and connectivity and the digital divide have also all impacted many people’s lives.

“For some, this has led to feelings of heightened anxiety and fear about the future. The good news is that many are turning to friends, family and neighbours for help, and they’re also using telephone helplines and e-counselling for support.”

Running once a month from June to September, previous online agri-debate topics have including recruiting and retaining new entrants to the industry, productivity versus the environment, and profitability and diversification. Previous sessions are available to view on the Devon YFC Facebook page.

To register to attend the free online debate, visit