Member of the Welsh Parliament for Monmouth, Nick Ramsay, in the Senedd last week raised the issue of mental health support for constituents living in rural areas who have felt extremely isolated during the pandemic.
Addressing the Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Senedd Nick asked: “Minister, do you think it's possible for us to do more—for Welsh Government to do more—to reach out to people suffering, or potentially suffering, from mental health issues in rural areas? As I sit here now, by the wonder of Zoom, I can see through the window passers-by walking by in my village. But I spoke to a constituent earlier who lives in one of the more deeper rural areas of my constituency, and she hasn't seen a passer-by for months, due to pandemic restrictions. So, it just seems to me that there are people out there who perhaps aren't being reached out to as much as they could be. I know that your strategy on mental health has been looking at ways that we can reach out to these people, so could you give a particular emphasis on mental health in rural areas?”
Eluned Morgan MS responded:” I'm very happy to be giving this issue some attention, because I do think that there are slightly different issues when it comes to mental health in rural areas, in particular for middle-aged men. So, very often, what we find is that they don't particularly want to go to GPs, for example, because everybody knows each other in these areas. So, whilst in cities the issue very often is the lack of connection, there is, very often, a connection in rural areas where everybody knows each other's business and sometimes they don't want people to know that business.
“The other thing I've been doing is liaising very extensively with a lot of the farming communities. I'm very aware that there is a particular issue in the farming community, where of course a lot of people are used to working alone—and of course we're all going through a lot of the experiences that farmers have had to put up with for years and years and years. But there is a particular issue there that I think we need to focus on as well. But I absolutely agree that we need to make sure that those measures are in place. Of course, they're able to access the services that everybody else can access, in terms of call centres, online support, but I am very aware that there is an older community that may want that face-to-face support. And of course, we'll be looking to make sure that, when we come out of this very strict lockdown period, there will be opportunities through our increase in funding to the third sector, that there will be facilities for them to access there.”