Farming Minister drives tractor to Parliament for mental health

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A government minister drove a tractor to Parliament last week to raise awareness of mental health in farming and rural communities.

Mark Spencer, Minister of State for Food, Farming and Fisheries took up the Westminster leg on 6 July of a journey covering 2,000 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End in aid of a special charity.

In January 2022, farmers Andy and Lynda Eadon tragically lost their son Len to suicide and set up a mental health awareness campaign in his name, Len’s Light. 

Lynda and Andy Eadon, Mark Spencer and MP Jeremy Wright. Photograph: Defra

Len’s Light Tractor Relay began at John O’Groats on 20 June with a specially designed beacon on the front of the tractor lighting up the route. The relay has stopped at livestock markets and machinery depots around the UK to spark conversations around mental health with farmers and others living in rural communities. The relay will end at Land’s End on 23 July.

Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: "It’s hugely important that we raise awareness of the mental health impacts in farming and rural communities.

"I’m honoured to have played even just a small part in this goal by getting behind the wheel today, and will continue to do all I can to ensure farmers can access the support they need, including through our Future Farming Resilience Fund and ongoing work with charities such as Yellow Wellies.”

Andy and Lynda Eadon, thanking the Farming Community Network, Farm Safety Foundation (Yellow Wellies) and Papyrus for their support of the charity, said: "Len’s Light is a nationwide journey reaching out to everyone in the rural community with the message that no one in the rural community should feel isolated and alone.

"With the help of everyone, we will continue to talk about positive mental health in the rural community which hinges around talking, listening and honesty.”

Research has suggested that farmers are at higher risk of mental illness and suicide. In England in 2020, 79 men and five women working in farming took their own lives.

Mark Spencer outside Parliament with 'Len's Light Tractor'. Photograph: Defra

The government says it is investing at least £2.3 billion of additional funding a year by March 2024 to expand mental health services in England so that two million more people will be able to get support.

NFU President, Minette Batters, said: "As an industry we’ve got to make greater strides to talk openly about our mental health and wellbeing. We’re encouraging the farming community to start a conversation with a neighbour, friend or family member. It really could make a huge difference.”

More about Len's Light Tractor Relay here


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