Letter: A sympathetic ear for farmers

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Sir: Many of your readers will have been disturbed by your article on the rise of suicide in the farming community ('When the only way out is a shotgun', 23 July). Much that makes rural life seem attractive to outsiders can cause despair and lead to thoughts of suicide for those who may feel trapped by this life within their communities.

The problem is not confined to Shropshire. Farmers and farm managers form the second-highest occupational group at risk of suicide, and it is estimated that four farmers a week in England and Wales take their own lives. Suicide is now the second major cause of death for farmers under 45.

As the article explained, space, isolation, financial pressures and the close-knit rural community can all be factors, and it can often be difficult to talk about one's feelings. The Samaritans' Rural Outreach Programme seeks to raise awareness of our service among those living in rural communities. We work closely with the NFU, Acre and other organisations, and participate in many regional initiatives, such as the leaflets at the Shropshire county show.

Samaritans are often present at agricultural shows, raising awareness but also offering the farmer an opportunity to talk to someone in complete confidence about their feelings.

With nearly 40 years' experience of offering emotional support to the suicidal, we know that talking about difficult feelings rather than leaving them bottled up can save lives.

Yours faithfully,


Chief Executive

The Samaritans

Slough, Berkshire

23 July