by David Bean

The Chair of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Neil Parish MP, has announced the launch of a new inquiry into rural mental health. The investigation is seeking evidence from individuals and groups about the mental health challenge within rural communities, including the adequacy of care services available.

The Committee is aiming to form a broad overview of the issue, to inform recommendations to the government on how it can improve mental health provision and outcomes in rural areas. It is particularly interested in hearing evidence relating to a range of specific questions set out in its Terms of Reference and Call for Evidence.

The Countryside Alliance warmly welcomes this inquiry. We appreciate the critical importance to everyone of looking after their mental health and having the opportunity to access high-quality care when they need it, but we recognise that this is one of many areas in which rural communities can be under-served.

There is a focus in the inquiry on agriculture, but the challenge extends further. Taking just one example, from our extensive engagement with gamekeepers we know that the isolation and loneliness they and their families often face can be especially difficult. It is only exacerbated by the abuse they can suffer, including over social media, from animal rights activists who oppose the sector. Scotland’s Rural Affairs Minister said in January that the evidence he had been shown of gamekeeper harassment had left him “appalled”.

If you have been affected by or have knowledge of the issues this inquiry is seeking to address, we would encourage you to submit a response.

We appreciate that some people who have been affected by these issues might prefer to contribute without being personally associated with their submission. The Committee will accept requests for responses to be kept anonymous or confidential, but as an alternative we will shortly be launching a survey that will allow us to submit a compilation of anonymous responses highlighting key themes.

The UK Parliament website has more information about the inquiry.

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