Crisis counselling to farming community

A BEXHILL man heads the Sussex group of a Christian organisation which, through a network of volunteers, offers crisis counselling to the farming community.

John Fowler, coordinator of a 12-member group of Sussex volunteers, this week explained how farmers can be driven to taking their own lives by situations like the current foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Surrey.

"Farm Crisis Network (FCN) is a UK network of volunteer groups drawn from the farming community and rural churches.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"FCN volunteers are there to 'walk with' and support farming people and families as they seek to resolve their problems, whatever they may be."

Mr Fowler, of Clifford Road, says: "FCN's work was established over 12 years ago as a response to the high suicide level in farming.

"The problems and strains that farming people can face are many and complex: long working hours, isolation, financial problems and stress caused by regulation are some examples. Many farm businesses are entwined with the farm household and family, which can create additional complexities when problems arise, as with the current foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

"FCN encounters farming people with mental ill health every day in its work. Depression and mental ill health features in 20-25 per cent of FCN's 'cases' and calls for help to FCN's national helpline rose by over sixty per cent last year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"FCN's volunteers have a wide range of expertise and training, as well as many links and contacts with local forms of support, professional expertise and advice which may be brought in as appropriate - for example, from health professionals, other charities, farm business advisers, debt counsellors, farming organisations and local churches.

"The volunteer remains in contact with the farmer and their family for as long as they are needed, as a trusted friend, advocate and source of pastoral and practical help and support.

"As a Christian organisation, faith was the foundation for the forming of FCN and it remains the motivation and strength for the work of FCN's volunteers. They are the church working in and reaching out to the farming community, a Christian response to the problems facing farming people, and very importantly a service available to all in the farming community of any faith or none.

"FCN's Christian ethos is summed up by a verse from the Bible which says 'Faith in itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead,' James 2:14."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

FCN's confidential Helpline is available from 7am-11pm daily on 07002 326 326.

For more information visit

Anyone working, or wishing to work, with farming communities can contact their local branch of FCN by phoning 01788 510866 or emailing [email protected]