Are ‘Ewe’ Okay? Breaking the Stigma of Mental Health

July 14, 2017

The final day of the 2017 Global 4-H Network Summit had the theme of the Environment and Healthy Living. Tying right into this, four delegates representing the Scottish Association of Young Farmers (SAYFC) held an info session on the stigma behind mental health.

According to SAYFC, one in four people in Scotland will suffer from poor mental health at some point in their life, yet there is still a negative perception of this in the public eye.

Gillian Bourman, Amy Ingram, Gillian Watret and Lucy Mitchell explained how the SAYFC initiative Are Ewe Okay? was created with a focus on breaking down the barriers of mental health.

Creating conversations about mental health in a public forum helps to break down these barriers that have been build up, particularly in smaller communities. This topic is very important for delegates to be aware of because belonging to the 4-H movement means youth feel safe to be themselves and develop a healthy personal mindset.

“There is a stigma within the more rural areas towards mental health,” said Watret. “Farming communities tend to think that you need to bury those feelings, or that you’re less of a person for feeling the way you do, and we are here to try to remove these opinions.”

Roughly 44 people in attendance filled out a true or false sheet that was full of statistics on mental health in the United Kingdom. Afterward, the speakers read the answers out loud, and in the process opened a few eyes.

“These numbers are only from the U.K., but it is clear that from childhood to adulthood, everyone is affected by mental health in some way,” said Bourman. “So let’s talk about it!”

The statistics seemed shocking to many in attendance, but that was the point – to encourage tough conversations.

“On average, it takes ten years for mental health sufferers to come forward,” said Ingram. “This is especially true for rural communities. Every week a farmer in the U.K. takes their life.”

The speakers explained how even though their information is only from Scotland, the ideals behind them are true on a global scale. Triggers for mental health issues can be as simple as work stresses, body image issues, and grief over a loss or event, to name a few.

“Common health conditions include bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorder, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, eating disorders, phobias, and more,” said Bourman.

Are Ewe Okay? pushes the topic of mental health awareness onto social networks to reach larger audiences, especially younger groups of people.

“We want to break the stigma by having younger generations talk openly about the subject,” said Ingram. “The more we talk about these things, the less we feel the need to bottle things up.”

The speakers shared a few stories about young people from small farming communities in Scotland and their struggles with mental health.

“The biggest thing to know is that if you are affected by any of these feelings, talk to someone about it,” said Watret. “Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.”

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