Report a reminder of the need to seek help, says Union

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In the wake of a report showing lower life expectancies for people facing poverty, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has urged those living in rural communities not to be reluctant to admit the pressures they face and seek help.

While the report focussed on Belfast, it underlined the huge disparities based on wealth, with people in poor areas experiencing major health gaps. Commenting on the report, Joy Rollston of the UFU’s rural affairs committee says that while there were not always direct parallels between urban and rural life, there was no escape from the reality that farming families were under enormous financial pressure - and had been for some time.

“We know the problems all too well. They stem from isolation, financial pressures and a reluctance to seek help, because of a belief that people should be able to solve their own problems,” said Mrs Rollston. She said Rural Support had been created to tackle this specific problem, and that there was growing evidence people in rural areas were now more aware of the need to seek help.

“Rural Support is there as a listening ear, and it can offer practical help and sign-post people to others that can help. The key message is that people need to admit they have problems and seek help through Rural Support or from their GP. They certainly will not be alone in doing so. Their problems will be familiar and understood. And even when the financial problems in farming ease, the other pressures of isolation, an ageing rural population and the splintering of families because of work commitments will remain,” she said, adding that those experiencing financial difficulties can also contact Rural Support and make use of their financial mentoring service, helping those with debt problems.