In 2014 figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that people in the UK are among the most lonely and isolated in Europe. The ONS data compared the UK with the rest of Europe. The UK came second from bottom for not feeling close to people in their local area. Germany came bottom and Cyprus came top. Loneliness and isolation can have a major impact on people’s wellbeing and mental health.
In the latest ONS Survey “Measuring national well-being: Life in the UK, Apr 2017” it shows that whilst many aspects of our lives have improved, areas that have deteriorated over a 3-year basis included the mental well-being of the population.
Isolation & loneliness affects many in our countryside and this was recognised by young people working within the agricultural industry. The Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) began the mental health awareness campaign “Are EWE Okay” in May 2016 during mental health awareness week. They recognised that there was a stigma associated with mental health issues, people working in the agriculture & rural industries are often working on their own so are facing isolation and through the nature of the work people often find it difficult to access services or support. Through the campaign they aimed to challenge the attitudes towards mental wellbeing for the industry’s next generation. In October 2017 their campaign was named as a ‘Farming Hero’ during the British Farming Awards.
Social media is often criticised for a variety of reasons, however in this instance it is being used in a positive way by a recognised body to reach its members – young people, who may otherwise have no one to turn to. The principles of ‘Are Ewe OK’ can so easily be transferred to anyone so perhaps we could all ask ‘Are you ok’?