The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee May 2023
Rural Mental Health
The report on Rural Mental Health, published by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, aims to shed light on the challenges faced by rural communities in terms of mental health and provides recommendations for improvement.
The available picture of rural mental health across England is complicated and incomplete due to gaps in health data, the suppression of demand by over-centralised services, and the under-reporting of rural deprivation which is inextricably linked to poor mental well-being. While our evidence did not point to a mental health crisis in rural England or the agricultural community, there are several areas of considerable concern—as well as sufficient doubt over the efficacy and granularity of the available data—to make urgent and meaningful Government action on rural mental health essential. Our evidence highlighted a very consistent set of concerns, risks and exacerbating challenges to rural mental health in England—often with reference to the on-going impacts of Covid, Brexit, the economic ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, labour shortages, retailer power, shock events, uncertainty over future finances and business succession plans, isolation, trade liberalisation and the cost of living. While access to nature and the countryside is consistently identified as beneficial for people’s mental health in general and often prescribed through ‘green social prescribing’, our evidence is clear that the isolation inherent in rural living represents a significant challenge to the mental health of adults, children, and young people living in rural areas. It also demonstrates that there are additional and unquantifiable negative pressures on mental well-being within rural communities and amongst farmers, farm workers and veterinary surgeons