Farming minister, Mark Spencer, took part in a segment of the Len’s Light Tractor Relay, aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues in farming and rural communities.
Mr Spencer drove the tractor around Parliament Square and into the Houses of Parliament as a part of the relay which is covering 2,000 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End. The event was launched by Lynda and Andy Eadon in June this year in memory of their son, Len, who took his own life in January 2022. Len’s Light is working in partnership with the Farming Community Network, Farm Safety Foundation and Papyrus to raise awareness and funds to support the wellbeing and mental health of farmers.
The event has occurred following a Farm Safety Foundation survey which revealed that 94% of respondents agreed poor mental health is one of the biggest hidden problems facing the industry today – up from 84% three years ago.
Mr Spencer said: “It’s hugely important that we raise awareness of the mental health impacts in farming and rural communities and I’d like to pay tribute to all those charities and individuals, including Lynda and Andy, who are working tirelessly to bring this to light.
“I’m honoured to have played even just a small part in this goal by getting behind the wheel today, and will continue to do all I can to ensure farmers can access the support they need, including through our Future Farming Resilience Fund and ongoing work with charities such as Yellow Wellies.”
Mr and Mrs Eadon, founders of Len’s Light, said: “Len’s Light is a nationwide journey reaching out to everyone in the rural community with the message that no one in the rural community should feel isolated and alone.
“Len’s Light Tractor Relay would not have started if we had not reached out for support from Sir Jeremy Wright MP, Mark Spencer MP, Stephanie Berkeley from the Farm Safety Foundation, and the NFU team – especially Minette Batters and George Bostock.
“With the help of everyone, we will continue to talk about positive mental health in the rural community which hinges around talking, listening and honesty.”
Work is continuing across the industry to reduce the stigma around mental health. The government is investing at least £2.3 billion of additional funding a year by March 2024 to expand and transform mental health services in England so that two million more people will be able to get the mental health support they need.
Farmers’ mental health and wellbeing are also being prioritised and supported in the government’s Future Farming Resilience Fund, which provides free business support to farmers and land managers in England. This includes support from in-house experts or signposting to external expert services, and the government has worked with the Farm Safety Foundation to provide advice and information on how to identify potential mental health issues and provide tools for addressing them.
NFU President, Minette Batters, said: “As an industry we’ve got to make greater strides to talk openly about our mental health and wellbeing. We’re encouraging the farming community to start a conversation with a neighbour, friend or family member. It really could make a huge difference.
“I applaud the bravery of Andy and Lynda Eadon who have worked so tirelessly to shine a light on achieving positive mental health in farming and rural communities. Having lost their own son, they’re both doing all they can to ensure no one in the countryside feels isolated or alone. The Len’s Light tractor relay is an extraordinary and emotional journey by a couple who are determined to make a difference to mental health and wellbeing. On behalf of the NFU we wish them all the very best on their onward journey.”
Dr Jude McCann, Chief Executive Officer, The Farming Community Network, said: “Andy and Lynda and the Len’s Light campaign are carrying a vital message of support that is resonating with farmers and people living in rural communities across the UK. None of us should feel alone – we are part of a supportive community that is here to listen, support and help.
“No matter what pressures you may be facing, FCN and other farm support charities are here to help people find a positive way forward. FCN volunteers understand farming life and its unique stresses, and can be contacted in confidence 365 days of the year on 03000 111 999 or [email protected].”