Churches urged to watch out for rural depression risk

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Churches urged to watch out for rural depression risk

Catholic churches across Norfolk and Suffolk are being encouraged to be watchful for those in tight knit farming and rural communities who are at risk of depression and suicide.

Between 2006 and 2015 Public Health Norfolk recorded 35 deaths by suicide from the farming community – nearly twice the rate for the general population. 

It was one such farming tragedy that prompted a Norfolk charity to launch The YANA (You Are Not Alone) Project in 2008.  The YANA website and leaflets describe the symptoms of depression and action to take – either if someone is feeling unwell or is concerned about a friend, colleague or family member. 

Jo Hoey, YANA coordinator, said: “There are many benefits of being part of the tight knit farming and rural communities of Norfolk and Suffolk, but one of the harsh facts of these industries is that the group is at high risk of depression and suicide.  For those in farming this is easily understood with some of the main issues being increasingly erratic weather patterns, animal diseases, stresses with marketing produce, workplace isolation, lack of respite, increasing regulation, poor financial returns (a recent study shows the farmers’ average income is under £20k) and no doubt uncertainty with Brexit is yet another factor as well as an historical reluctance to discuss mental health.  

“YANA has successfully raised the profile of mental health, highlighting that it is ‘ok not to feel ok’ and encouraging those who are suffering from depression, stress or anxiety to visit their GP promptly or contact the YANA confidential helpline.  The project can fund up to six sessions of counselling either via its helpline or a patient’s GP and can put that in place within days – a real lifeline when waiting lists for counselling with the NHS can be months,” said Jo.

“With a presence in so many of the market towns of Norfolk and Suffolk, our church communities are ideally placed to be watchful for those who might be struggling with their mental health.  A kindly ‘Are you ok’ is often enough to make some open up about their troubles and if you are concerned about someone please offer some support.  You will never regret being a good friend, even to a stranger.”


Confidential Helpline:  0300 323 0400

Picture courtesy of YANA