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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Long work hours the biggest challenges to most young farmers’ mental health

A survey of young farmers undertaken by Scottish agricultural charity, RSABI, has highlighted the factors impacting the mental health of young people in the industry.

A total of 114 young people in agriculture aged from 16 to 30 took part in the survey outside the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs Centre over the four days of the event.

The biggest challenges to their mental health reported by the young farmers were:

  • Long work hours (30%);
  • Reluctance to talk about their feelings (18%);
  • Isolated location (16%);
  • The cost of going out (15%);
  • Shyness (11%);
  • Unsure how to meet people (6%).
Mental health

The importance of meeting up with others at events and shows shone through very clearly, with 98% of respondents rating attending the Royal Highland Show as important for their mental health.

RSABI provides emotional, practical and financial support to people of all ages in Scottish agriculture and an increasing amount of the work done by their case officers relates to mental health, with around 90% of the welfare team’s time now devoted to practical and emotional support.

Free counselling is provided by RSABI to people in Scottish agriculture struggling with their mental health. This is simple to arrange and can be accessed very quickly and demand for the service has trebled during the past year.

However, only 36% of young farmers surveyed were aware that RSABI offers free counselling.

The young farmers who took part in the survey were also asked if they felt they would know how to support someone close to them who was struggling with their mental health.


While a very encouraging 68% of young farmers said they felt they would know how to support a friend, neighbour, or relative struggling with their mental health, around 32% would simply not know how to respond.

The main ways young farmer respondents said they would choose to reach out to RSABI for help were via:

  • Helpline 0808 1234 555 (35%);
  • Social media (24%);
  • Web chat service (21%),
  • RSABI by email (15%).

“Having the RSABI stand located at the SAYFC centre at this year’s Royal Highland Show created the ideal opportunity to survey young farmers.”

“The fact we were sharing our location with Andy and Lynda Eadon, who lost their son Len to suicide last year, also highlighted the need to focus on better understand young farmers’ mental health,” said Carol McLaren, Chief Executive of RSABI.

“We know that social anxiety among young people, aggravated by lockdown during Covid, is a major issue that young farmers and indeed many older people in the farming community, are now struggling with.

“The young farmer respondents highlighted shyness and not feeling able to share their feelings shows as significant factors which shows just how important SAYFC’s ‘AreEweOk?’ initiative and RSABI’s national ‘#KeepTalking’ campaigns are.”

Small acts of kindness 

Ms McLaren added: “We are encouraging people not to hesitate to reach out to RSABI but everyone in the agricultural community can play an important part in encouraging positive mental health by actively looking out for people who might be at risk of feeling lonely or low.”

“Just contacting someone or other small acts of kindness can make a huge difference and could even save a life, although you may never know it.”

Penny Montgomerie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs, said:

“SAYFC has actively been raising awareness of wellbeing via our ‘Are Ewe Okay?’ campaign, to help our members find support for themselves, their families and friends.”

“Having RSABI join us at the Royal Highland Show helped raise awareness of the wide variety of services that are available, together with offering valuable insight into some of the challenges young people are facing in the rural communities.”

RSABI’s freephone Helpline – 0808 1234 555 – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and calls will not show up on phone bills.

All enquires are treated as confidential by the organisation’s friendly, professional team.

You can make contact online on a range of social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and you can also reach RSABI via the webchat function on its website 24 hours a day.

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