Government complacent over rural mental health

Government complacent over rural mental health

7 Nov 2023

Rural Mental Health:
Government Response to the Committee’s Fourth Report

In its response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee's report on rural mental health, the government rejects the need for targeted action to address the specific mental health needs of rural communities, arguing that existing provisions are adequate.

The Committee's report highlighted the stresses faced by rural workers, particularly farmers and vets, due to factors like weather, government policies, and isolation, which impact their mental health.

The government declined the Committee's recommendations for establishing a National Working Group on suicide prevention for agricultural and veterinary occupations and a joint DEFRA/DHSC rural mental health team, asserting that existing channels are more effective. They also rejected calls for integrated interventions with the Department of Transport and the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology to improve rural mental health access.

The government plans to roll out Mental Health Support Teams in schools and colleges, but the coverage in rural areas remains uncertain.

There are no plans for upgrading local preparedness for rural populations' mental health in crisis events or for establishing Early Support Hubs for children and young people in rural areas.

While the Committee suggested a dedicated funding stream for rural mental health care, the government has no such plans but recognises the need for support.

The government also rejects calls for a specific training program for rural mental health provision, indicating satisfaction with current training. Regarding rural youth services, they refer to The Youth Review in 2021, suggesting that a separate consultation on rural youth services is premature.

Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sir Robert Goodwill, said:

“Our committee was hopeful that the Government would recognise the distinct needs and circumstances of the rural population and would follow our carefully considered recommendations to support and protect them. While we recognise that the Government has taken measures to support the mental health of the general population, we are disappointed by its rejection of measures to support the specific and identifiable mental health needs of those who live in rural areas.

“This was an opportunity to make significant changes which could greatly impact our rural communities. With this response the Government demonstrates a worrying degree of complacency on the issue and so will fail to confront the significant problem of improving rural mental health.”

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