POLICE officers in North Wales have been equipped to help farmers following concerns over mental health.

Rob Taylor, rural crime team manager for North Wales Police, said his officers have been trained to help and signpost members of the region's farming community following an increasingly challenging circumstances.

He said: "The farming community has one of the highest rates of suicide in the UK.

"Mental health is becoming a huge concern as Brexit had a huge impact with uncertainty and anxiety over a long time. "Suddenly covid comes along and isolation - loneliness has become a big issue for our farmers and often we're the first people to come across this by visiting them."

Mr Taylor said these existing pressures can also be exacerbated by the threat and occurrence of rural crime such as thefts and livestock attacks.

He continued: "We've been working closely with two foundations in Wales; the DPJ Foundation and the Farming Community Network.

"We've had two Zoom conferences to look at ways for us to help and signpost farmers. "Our primary responsibility is to protect and save life. "This isn't just about the theft of a quad bike or a tractor, for example - it's about understanding the impact this can have on a farmer mentally given the climate we're in."

On the eve of World Mental Health day (Friday, October 9) the Farmers’ Union of Wales hosted a virtual All Wales Mental Health conference, which explored the wider context of poor mental health in rural communities and what steps need to be taken by Government, decision makers and policy shapers to address the situation, especially as Covid-19 is likely to put further pressure not just on people’s mental but also their finances.

Speaking after the event, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We made a commitment at the Royal Welsh Show in 2017 to do everything we can to help break the stigma that still prevents farmers from speaking about their mental health and seeking the help they often desperately need and deserve.

"The figures sadly speak for themselves, with one farmer a week dying by suicide and many more suffering in silence.

"A point that was made repeatedly during the event was that farmers must be considered as a group of people who have different requirements and needs when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing.

"Going forward we must put a strategy in place that when a farmer accesses help for their poor mental health through their GP, they do not get treated with the blanket approach that is currently policy."