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Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid for Farming

Introduction: Farming and Mental Health

Farming in Scotland presents unique stressors and mental health challenges for those who dedicate their lives to it. The unpredictable Scottish weather, financial pressures, and rural isolation can take a toll on the well-being of farmers, who often work long hours in demanding conditions. These stressors, coupled with the uncertainty brought about by changing agricultural policies and the complexities of navigating bureaucratic regulations, can exacerbate mental health issues in the farming community. Research and anecdotal evidence suggest that farmers in Scotland are at a higher risk of mental health issues compared to the general population. Additionally mental health issues among Scottish farmers are likely underreported due to factors such as stigma, limited access to mental health services in rural areas, and reluctance to seek help

  • A survey by the Farm Safety Foundation in 2018 found that 81% of young farmers in the UK believed that mental health was the most significant hidden issue faced by farmers
  • Research by the University of Exeter in 2020 found that 58% of farmers in the UK met the criteria for mild to severe anxiety, while 44% met the criteria for mild to severe depression
  • A 2019 report from the UK Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, found one agricultural worker in the UK dies by suicide each week
  • A 2016 study published in the journal “Occupational Medicine” found that the risk of suicide among farmers was 1.48 times higher than the national average for other occupations

What are the factors affecting Mental Health in Farming?


Weather unpredictability

Scotland's weather is known for being highly unpredictable, with frequent rain and rapidly changing conditions. This can make it challenging for farmers to plan and manage their crops or livestock, leading to increased stress and anxiety.

Isolation and loneliness

Many Scottish farms are located in rural, remote areas, leading to social isolation and loneliness among farmers. This lack of social support can exacerbate feelings of stress and contribute to mental health issues

Financial pressures

Farming is a capital-intensive occupation with slim profit margins. Scottish farmers may experience financial stress due to fluctuating market prices, the costs of machinery and inputs, and potential difficulties in obtaining loans or grants.

Changing agricultural policies

Brexit has created uncertainty for the agricultural sector in Scotland, as farmers may face changes in subsidies, trade agreements, and regulations. This uncertainty can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.

Mental health stigma

As is the case in many rural communities, there may be a stigma surrounding mental health issues in the Scottish farming community. This can prevent farmers from seeking help or discussing their mental health challenges openly.

Work-life balance

Farming is often a 24/7 occupation, with long hours and limited time off. This can make it difficult for farmers to maintain a healthy work-life balance and may contribute to burnout and mental health issues.

Sound Familiar? There's something you can do for yourself, your colleagues and your friends...

Mental Health Awareness: Why should Farmers undertake Mental Health Training?

Mental health training can be beneficial for farmers for several reasons. Undertaking mental health training can help farmers better understand, manage, and support their own mental well-being and that of their peers, employees, and family members.

Here are just six reasons Farmers should undertake Mental Health Awareness Training:


Mental health challenges are common in Farming

Farm workers are at higher risk of experiencing mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and suicide due to factors such as isolation, financial pressures and work-life balance.

Awareness and understanding

Mental health training can help farmers develop a better understanding of mental health issues, including recognising the signs and symptoms of common conditions like depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders

Stigma reduction

Training can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the farming community by promoting open discussion and increasing awareness of the importance of mental well-being

Early intervention

By learning to recognise the early warning signs of mental health issues, farmers can take action to seek help or support others in seeking help before issues escalate or become chronic

Improved coping skills

Mental health training can teach farmers effective coping strategies for managing stress, improving resilience, and maintaining their well-being. These skills can be particularly beneficial in the face of the unique stressors faced by those in the agricultural sector

Supportive work environment

For farmers who employ others, mental health training can help create a more supportive and understanding work environment. This can contribute to improved employee well-being, job satisfaction, and productivity

Good news! There's an easily accessible solution to enhance your mental health skills...

Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) – Tailored for Farmers

Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) is a training program developed in Scotland to equip individuals with the skills and knowledge to provide initial support to someone experiencing mental health problems or who is in a mental health crisis. The goal of SMHFA is to promote early intervention, reduce stigma, and increase awareness of mental health issues in the community.

The training covers various mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and substance misuse, and teaches participants how to recognize the signs and symptoms of these conditions. It also provides guidance on how to approach and engage with someone who may be experiencing a mental health problem or crisis.

Green Ribbons has developed a tailored SMHFA course for Farmers, addressing some of the unique issues in the sector, based on thirty years experience living in rural Moray.

What does Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid Training Cover?


Understanding mental health and mental health problems

This component focuses on building a foundational understanding of mental health, its impact on individuals and society, and the difference between mental health and mental illness.

Stigma and discrimination

Participants learn about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the negative impact of discrimination on individuals experiencing mental health problems.

The recovery process

The course covers the concept of recovery and its importance in the journey of individuals experiencing mental health issues.


SMHFA provides information on the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of depression, as well as ways to support someone who may be experiencing it.

Anxiety disorders

Participants learn about various anxiety disorders, their signs and symptoms, and strategies to help someone who may be struggling with anxiety.


The course covers the signs and symptoms of psychosis, its risk factors, and the appropriate ways to support someone experiencing a psychotic episode.

The ALGEE action plan

The course teaches the ALGEE action plan, which is a practical approach to providing initial support and guiding someone experiencing mental health issues towards professional help.

Self-harm and suicide

Participants learn about the signs, risk factors, and appropriate ways to approach and support someone who may be self-harming or experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Substance misuse

SMHFA discusses the connection between mental health and substance misuse, and how to recognize and support someone struggling with addiction.

How does Scotland's Mental Health First Aid training work?


The course takes 12 Hours, typically spanning 2 full days or 4 half-day sessions, providing a comprehensive learning experience.

Certified Instructors

Courses are led by experienced, certified instructors who are continuously quality assessed by Health Scotland.

Interactive Learning

The course features a mix of presentations, group discussions, case studies, videos, and role-playing exercises to ensure a practical, hands-on learning experience.

Small Group Sizes

Classes, of 8-16, are kept small to facilitate personalised attention, encourage active participation, and foster a supportive learning environment.

ALGEE Framework

The course teaches the ALGEE action plan, which stands for Assess, Listen, Give reassurance and information, Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage self-help strategies.


Instructors maintain a safe and confidential space for participants to share their experiences and ask questions without judgment.

Course Materials

Participants receive a comprehensive course manual and additional resources to support their learning and ongoing development.


Upon successful completion of the course, participants receive a certificate that validates their skills and knowledge as Mental Health First Aiders.

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  • We can discuss how SMHFA can benefit your organisation and explore options



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    Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid for Farming Staff
    What percentage of young UK farmers believe mental health is the most significant hidden issue faced by farmers?
    What percentage of UK farmers met the criteria for mild to severe anxiety in a 2020 study by the University of Exeter?
    How much higher is the risk of suicide among farmers compared to the national average for other occupations, according to a 2016 study published in the journal "Occupational Medicine"?
    What is one effect of the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the Scottish farming community?
    What is the main goal of Scotland's Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) training program?
    How many agricultural workers in the UK die by suicide each year, according to a 2019 report from the UK Parliament's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee?
    What does the ALGEE action plan in Scotland's Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) training provide?
    Which of the following is NOT a reason to undertake mental health awareness training?
    Which audience is this training designed for?
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