Aarun Naik - Agro-psychology: How can we support and improve the emotional & psychological well-being of farmers?
I have worked all of my career in the agriculture industry although I am not from a farming background myself. I started off running crop protection field trials with ADAS and later moved into agricultural and environmental policy work with Forum for the Future. For the past nine years I have been working for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) where I have held a number of positions including environmental policy adviser. My current role is a County Adviser looking after the NFU’s activities in Cheshire and helping farm businesses in the North West of England with the many challenges they face.
Over recent years my personal interest in psychology, the mind and emotional well-being led me to study and train in psychotherapy. I am a qualified and practicing counsellor & psychotherapist and member of the UK self-regulatory body, National Council of Psychotherapists.
My Nuffield topic will explore how we can better support and improve the emotional and psychological health of farmers. This enables me to marry my two interests - farming and psychology.
It is generally acknowledged that some of the unique circumstances faced by those that work in the farming industry means that farmers are often particularly vulnerable to mental and emotional health challenges. Whilst some in the industry are starting to speak out about the levels of depression stress in the farming community, there remains a real and genuine need for greater understanding of how we address and respond to the need to support farmer well-being. The sort of themes my project will look at include
• How widespread and common are issues of poor mental health, depression, suicide and emotional distress amongst farming communities and are there particular circumstances shared by farming communities that have a stronger or lesser influence on this?
• Which countries and farming communities have had the greatest success in addressing this problem and how have they achieved this? What are the barriers they have broken through and how?
• What kind of support do farmers facing such challenges want and value the most?
• What level of training and knowledge do those working to support farmers with such challenges possess and/or what type of support would help make them even more effective?
• Can advances in audio-visual information technology be harnessed to overcome some of the common barriers that prevent access to support?
• Is there learning that can be used to shape policy and practice in this area among the health and counselling professions?
I hope to travel to some of the other countries in Western Europe as well as the USA, India and Japan. I am extremely appreciative of the support from Nuffield as well as my sponsor, the John Oldacre Foundation that has made this opportunity possible for me.