Mental health and money advice service offers support for agricultural workers

Last year 84pc of farmers under 40 said they believed poor mental health was the biggest danger faci

Last year 84pc of farmers under 40 said they believed poor mental health was the biggest danger facing a sector which is so often characterised by isolation and uncertainty Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Archant

Farmers in East Anglia are facing a crisis of mental health. In 2018, the Farming Safety Foundation found that more than one agricultural worker every week dies by suicide. However, there is support for those facing both financial and psychological pressures. Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group Ambassador for the East of England, discusses how the Mental Health and Money Advice Service can help address this critical issue.

'I have seen how mental health impacts people both from a family perspective and from a professional

'I have seen how mental health impacts people both from a family perspective and from a professional perspective,' says Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group ambassador for the East of England Picture: Lloyds Banking Group - Credit: Archant

The figures are stark. According to a 2019 study from the Farm Safety Foundation, 84pc of farmers under 40 believe mental health is the biggest danger facing the industry.

This would be alarming at any time. Given the situation facing the country now – and the uncertain future facing many in the agricultural sector – the link between financial and psychological well-being has never been more important.

For Lloyds Banking Group, this connection has been something it has been passionate about for some years. In 2017, the Group partnered with the national charity Mental Health UK (MHUK). To date, colleagues at the Group have raised £11 million.

Just one of the initiatives that came from the partnership was the Mental Health and Money Advice Service. This is an online advice platform and confidential helpline staffed by professionals experienced in both counselling and financial services.

It is something Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the East of England, believes could play a crucial role in helping those in the agricultural sector with financial and mental health worries. He said: “We are well aware of the issues facing our agricultural workers: isolation, long hours, vulnerability to weather and disease.

“At Lloyds, we are keen to play our part to ensure that this issue is discussed, and the stigma of mental health removed.

“When you need to talk about overall financial planning, please do talk to your bank. However, if you want specific financial advice from people trained in mental health, that’s where the Mental Health and Money Advice Service comes in.

“First, they listen. It is really important that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Second, the team uses various financial tools and calculators to address money challenges and help you manage your finances – no matter how complex.

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“So far, over 600,000 people in the UK have accessed the service.”

In addition to the partnership with MHUK, Lloyds Banking Group’s four charitable Foundations also support mental health charities and projects across the UK, allocating £8 million in grants to smaller mental health charities.

However, there is also a wider focus on supporting those in this region who are going through tough times. Lloyds Bank is responsible for supporting one in five farms in the UK.

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Matt said: “Our teams are talking to farmers and agricultural suppliers in East Anglia every day of the week.

“We are working nonstop with our clients, discussing what might be the best financial support to help them work through this phase, whether that is via the Bounce Back Loan scheme (BBLS), Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme (CBILS), capital repayment holidays or extension of overdrafts. We have already approved nearly £5 billion of Bounce Back Loans across the country during the last few weeks.”

But away from the numbers, it’s the people who Matt is most concerned with. In 2018, the former army officer led a group of 34 colleagues on a walk across part of the Great Wall of China, raising over £250,000 for MHUK.

He said: “I have seen how mental health impacts people both from a family perspective and from a professional perspective. From my time as an officer in the Royal Artillery I have seen the effects of mental health challenges on people, both in the Gulf War and in Northern Ireland.

“I have also witnessed the devastating effects a suicide has on a family. My sister, who suffered from schizophrenia, took her own life 22 years ago at the age of 28.”

Drawing on his personal experience, Matt has some simple yet powerful advice for those in the agricultural industry suffering from poor mental health.

“Please speak with someone. It is much better to talk about these things.

“My plea would also be that – if you see somebody that you think might be suffering, do not shy away from it. Speak to them and encourage them to talk to a mental health professional or charity sooner rather than later.

“There are some excellent support organisations, including the You Are Not Alone project (YANA), the Royal Agriculture Benevolent Institution (RABI) and the Farming Community Network (FCN).

“We cannot emphasise enough that you are not alone. Often when you talk to others you find that you are not the only person that is having these thoughts. Genuinely, we are stronger together and we can help each other.”

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