At the FUW pavilion during the Royal Welsh Show, a well-attended seminar explored what help may be available in rural communities for those suffering with mental health.

Under the theme, ‘It’s OK to say,’ the spotlight was focused on what many consider to be a taboo topic in the farming community. The chairman was Union spokesman Alun Edwards, who has personally experienced the stress of poor mental health.

Glyn Roberts, union president, commented: “In matters such as this, the ‘stiff upper lip’ is synonymous with the rural farming community and most farmers just get on with things - many may be hiding problems from themselves and their families and friends and talking about personal feelings is uncomfortable.


“There’s no getting away from the fact that we’ve faced some pretty low-points as a farming community in the last few years, TB, price volatility and uncertainty about our future post-Brexit, this all puts a strain on our resolve. But it’s about time to break the stigma attached to mental health and feeling vulnerable.”

Emma Picton-Jones, a primary school teacher and a dairy farmer’s daughter, with two young children, set-up the DPJ Foundation after her husband took his own life just over a year ago.

The foundation aims to support people in agriculture and in the farming community by reducing the stigma that surrounds mental health and supporting them by signposting them to support systems that are available.

Their aim is to set up a talking therapies service specifically for people in the rural communities, men in particular who struggle with their mental health.


In the year since setting up the foundation, it has gained registered charity status, raised in excess of £25,000, and Emma received a Local Hero Inspiration Award. She has also been named as part of a national group of 30 who have been recognised as people who will shape the future of Wales in the next 30 years.

Sharing her personal experience, Emma said: “Although having never experienced poor mental health to the extent my late husband did, I have seen first-hand the devastating effect it can have on a person. I lived through a roller coaster ride of ups and downs with Daniel over the last five years of his life. Daniel very much felt that he was alone with his feelings, he felt isolated and as if no one really understood what he was going through. However, he was completely wrong, thousands of people are going through what he went through every day.


“Agriculture carries a high rate of poor mental health for various reasons, isolation and given the fact it is a male dominated sector are just a couple of reasons and added to that the pressure that comes along with being a modern day farmer all adds up to a recipe for possible poor mental health. What I think these men and women need to realise is that they are not alone.

“These feelings they are having aren’t ones that only they feel - there are so many other people who feel the same way, the same loneliness, helplessness and uncertainty. It’s also important to understand there is no shame in having poor mental health. We all have mental health, various things happen throughout our life that impact our well being and there is no shame or weakness in admitting you are suffering in this way.

“The single most effective thing you can do to help yourself is to talk. Talk about your struggles and about what you are feeling. Just by telling someone what you are going through is one of the biggest steps you can take - you will feel a weight lift off your shoulders.


“Importantly, if you are that person being talked to you need to listen. It is too easy to offer advice and positive thoughts and ways forward but ultimately that person has taken a huge step to talk to you and you need to just sit and listen and let them take the weight off their shoulders. Support is out there, if you feel that your mental health is suffering the first thing to do is talk to your GP.”

Following the seminar, Alun told me: “We had an encouraging discussion which moves the agenda on. There is still a stigma in admitting that this illness is widespread in the farming community, but meetings like this can only make a positive difference.”

Well-established routes

Inspired by the drovers of yesteryear - referred to in this column a few issues ago - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) last week took outstanding Welsh produce to London as part of a sales drive in the UK market.

Welsh drovers were famously hardy people, who walked with their livestock all the way from rural Wales to major English cities. Drovers’ routes became vital economic arteries for Wales and, by the late-18th century, the trade was well-established with thousands of cattle and sheep from Wales being delivered on foot to Smithfield Market every year for London customers.

Re-creating, albeit with more modern modes of transport, last week’s consignment was delivered to a brand new restaurant at London’s Tower Bridge which has just been opened by the Welsh chef Tom Simmons (featured on Masterchef: The Professionals and is regarded as one of the UK’s finest up-and-coming chefs).

Tom prepared delicious Welsh lamb dishes for a gathering of some of England’s leading food writers and journalists to celebrate ‘Llamb’s Day’ - August 1 - which is becoming established as a focus for promoting Welsh Lamb in the UK.

Welsh lamb is already being supplied to many of London’s leading restaurants, and exemplifies the highest standards of production and welfare in the Welsh farming industry. The lamb is bred on lush grass and all stages of processing takes place nearby.

One Welsh supplier says: “We take orders from chefs in the morning, the lamb is cut, packed and dispatched that evening down to London in our own refrigerated van and delivered by a company with a fleet of vans around London early the next morning.

“Chefs trust in the knowledge that the PGI Welsh lamb they buy has complete security of provenance backed by sustainable farming methods producing healthy, delicious meat,” he said adding: “As with the drovers 200 years ago, the UK market - particularly in London and the south-east - is very important to the Welsh lamb industry.”

HCC marketing manager Rhys Llywelyn tells me: “PGI Welsh lamb is available in more and more stores in England, and is particularly plentiful in the summer and autumn months. Our hope is to create a buzz around this high-quality product in the media.

“There’s a misconception among many consumers that spring is the best time to buy lamb,” said Rhys. “Last year, we inaugurated ‘Llamb’s Day’ on August 1 to kick-off our summer and autumn marketing with a focus on seasonality.

“We aim to take advantage of the fact that more and more consumers demand quality, traceable produce with low food miles, and want consumers to be aware of the fantastic Welsh Lamb that’s available in their shops.”

Handwritten on Mother Theresa’s Wall

People are often unreasonable, illogical, self centred; forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives; be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some friends and some true enemies; be successful anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.

If you find Serenity and Happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.

Give the World the best you have and it may never be enough; give the World the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.