The government has faced backlash after rejecting calls for targeted mental health support for farmers affected by recent floods. A committee of MPs expressed concerns about the lack of mental health services available to farmers who have suffered crop losses due to the floods. However, the government argued that additional emergency funding for crisis-hit farmers was unnecessary. Farmers have reported a significant impact on their mental health, but have received little support. The government’s response comes after a report by the UK Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) committee highlighted the mental health trauma faced by farmers and called for dedicated emergency funding. Despite this, the government stated that current levels of support were sufficient and that guidance on the mental health impact of flooding was available on its website.
One farmer, Henry Moreton, shared his heartbreaking experience of the floods’ devastating impact on his mental well-being. Moreton estimated losses of £55,000 to £65,000 worth of crops due to flooding after Storm Babet hit. He expressed his despair and the toll it took on his mental health, explaining how he broke down in tears when confronted with the damage. Moreton’s story exemplifies the urgent need for mental health support in such situations.
The Efra committee’s report underlined the mental health challenges faced by farmers during extreme weather events and animal health crises. It called on the government to provide emergency funding to address the mental health needs of rural communities affected by crisis events. However, the government’s response did not allocate any specific funding and argued that the existing support was adequate. The government stated that it works with various organizations to support people at risk of flooding and provides support through its rural business support scheme and the future farming resilience fund.
Sir Robert Goodwill, the Efra committee chair, expressed disappointment with the government’s response, stating that it demonstrates a concerning level of complacency. He emphasized the opportunity to make significant changes that could greatly impact rural communities. Goodwill believes that the government’s rejection of measures to support the mental health needs of rural residents shows a lack of concern.
While the government asserts that support is available through its schemes and partnerships, farmers like Moreton have found limited options for immediate mental health assistance. Moreton relied on the support of family and friends, who have been helping him since the passing of his father. He highlighted the challenges faced by farmers in seeking help and acknowledged the need for more individuals to reach out for support. Moreton also expressed his belief that the government does not truly care about farmers, but acknowledged the reluctance among farmers to admit their weaknesses and seek help.
The government’s refusal to provide targeted mental health support for flood-hit farmers has drawn criticism from the Efra committee and those directly affected by the floods. The mental health challenges faced by farmers in the aftermath of such events are significant and require dedicated attention and assistance.