H&H Group Expands Support for Mental Health Issues in Agriculture 

International Mental Health Day sees H&H Group announce further commitment to support its communities.

In conjunction with World Mental Health Day, which took place yesterday, H&H Group which includes Harrison and Hetherington, H&H Land & Estates, H&H Reeds and H&H Insurance Brokers, has announced a further commitment to support the farming community with an extension to the mental health training programme currently offered to staff.

Recognising the often-hidden issue of mental health within agriculture, the Group has invested heavily in recent years to support staff with training and awareness of the issues surrounding mental health, in order to help and support staff and colleagues and the wider community.

Commenting on why he recognises that this is such an important issue to bring to the fore, Richard Rankin, CEO of H&H Group plc, said: “Let’s not underestimate the stress and anxiety experienced by so many and especially in the farming sector, which has, in many cases, been intensified by the COVID epidemic. As a Group, we want to encourage individuals within our own businesses and our community to talk and feel they have a safe place to come if they need help.” 

Twelve members of the H&H Group team have now completed a course in Mental Health First Aid, Mental Health in the Workplace Level 1 (VTQ) or Mental Health in the Workplace Level 2 (VTQ), with eight more in progress and several others registered to start training. This team has an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing. They have studied practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues and have the confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress. They also can help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support.

Lynne Grieve, Fieldsperson with Harrison & Hetherington, and someone who has completed the course gives her feedback: “Our job within the auction mart has always had an element of a supportive role, as a friend, an ear to listen, or just someone to chat to.

Farming is an isolated job, and this was heightened by Covid, so when you are on the phone, talking about livestock, many farmers will also talk about the weather, or even Emmerdale – it doesn’t matter, because they just want a chat. Also, when you turn up on the farm, you are aware that you can be the only point of human contact they have had for days and this was especially the case during Covid, when the mart cafes were shut, and people couldn’t come in to socialise.

“The Mental Health Awareness course was absolutely fantastic, and I learnt a lot. In places it was very emotional as it hit home and reminded me of visits and conversations I have had – so true to life for farming and those working in rural industries. It was easy to identify the circumstances where you know you can make a difference.

“I truly would recommend anyone to take part. It made me more aware how important it is to always hear what people are saying, and to show an interest. So take the five minutes just to listen, as it can makes a huge difference to someone’s mental health, and in the industry we work in, to perhaps their entire week.

“No one should feel they don’t have anyone to talk to or nowhere to go, and as a progressive caring business, we feel we have a responsibility to ensure everyone has support. Having a team of employees that can offer this, even if it is simply directing the individual to someone else, such as the NHS, or one of the many self-help resources that are available, is a significant step in the right direction.”

Young adults have been especially badly hit over the last 18 months with disruption to education, uncertain job prospects and reduced social contact. Research (*) has found that young adults were more likely to report stress arising from the pandemic than the population as a whole. Findings show that 18–24-year-olds were still more likely than any other age group to report hopelessness, loneliness, not coping well and suicidal thoughts/feelings; standing at almost a third compared to one in five of the whole population.  “These are staggering statistics and illustrate the desperate need for new and additional forms of support,” added Richard.

“It’s fantastic the marts are back open for business, but we have seen a change in the health of our customer base, and it’s right as a business and as fellow members of our community, that we all come together to support each other and look towards a more positive future.”