ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is to join the growing number of organisations committing to end the stigma and discrimination against people with experience of mental health problems.
The leading rural network will today (December 3) sign a pledge with Time to Change, a programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.
The signing ceremony will take place in Cirencester where Chief Executive Janice Banks will pledge ACRE’s support to Time to Change, promoting a better understanding of mental health problems through its national Network of 38 rural community councils.
"Our members across England are working with communities to offer support and to help prevent mental health problems"
Ms Banks said: “Breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health issues is something we very much support, especially as national suicide rates showed a marked increase between 2010-11.
“Some studies have indicated that farmers may be three times more likely than the average person to take their own life. Many factors have been proposed to account for this high rate including access to firearms, the prospect of unemployment and financial difficulties. However, research also suggests that isolation, a lack of social support and the decline in rural communities may also play a part.
“Current intelligence from our Network shows that mental health is an important issue in rural areas and the reasons for this may be two-fold.
“Firstly, we know that the stresses of living in rural area, such as isolation, the higher cost of living andthe lack of access to services that urban dwellers take for granted, can cause mental health problems
“Secondly, that lack of services, such as public transport, clinics and hospitals means it is harder for people to get the help they need in a time of crisis.
“We should not underestimate the part that the stigma surrounding mental health issues plays in preventing people from coming forward to talk about their problems. There is a great deal of pride in isolated, rural areas where a culture of self-reliance makes it difficult to seek help.
“Our members across England are working with communities to offer support and to help prevent mental health problems – whether that’s a befriending service for lonely, elderly people or suicide awareness training for public and voluntary workers. ACRE is delighted to sign this pledge on behalf of the Network.”
ACRE joins the wide movement of organisations that have signed up to the Time to Change pledge, including the FA, the Premier League, BT, E.ON, British Gas, Ernst & Young, Transport for London, Citizen’s Advice, Accenture, Shell, Pepsico, The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England, Channel 4, Lloyds, and many NHS trusts, universities, and local authorities.
Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: “It is fantastic that more and more organisations are showing their support in tackling the stigma experienced by people with mental health problems. Employers and their staff can all play a part in helping to stamp out stigma and organisations like ACRE are taking a lead.
“Many leading companies have found that making a strategic commitment to the mental wellbeing of their workforce not only has benefits for their staff but also benefits their bottom-line, improving productivity and staff retention. With one in four people experiencing mental illness it’s time for businesses to work on their approach and start creating more mentally healthy workplaces.“
Time to Change is England’s biggest anti-stigma programme led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief. Set up to create a positive shift in public attitudes towards mental health problems, Time to Change promotes better understanding to combat discrimination towards people who experience mental health problems.