Samaritans reminds caller it is here for anyone struggling to cope
A new Samaritans survey has discovered that people living in rural areas in Northern Ireland (47%) are less likely than those in urban areas (70%) to reach out for support or talk to someone if they are struggling with their mental health.
Women living in rural areas across the UK are also much more likely than men to seek help with 60%, saying they would talk to someone if they were struggling (compared to 43% of men in rural areas).
The findings come as Samaritans launches a new phase of its Real People, Real Stories campaign, supported by NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, which aims to reach men in rural communities who are struggling to cope to prevent them reaching crisis point. In the UK and Ireland, men are three to four times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Over three quarters of people in Northern Ireland living in rural areas (81%) also said there was at least one barrier that would stop them reaching out for support even if they were struggling. Samaritans discovered the top three barriers are concern over lack of privacy (31%), not knowing who to turn to (28%) and stigma around mental health (26%).
As evidence suggests that suicide rates are higher in rural areas compared to urban areas[iii] and rural-based occupations, such as those in agriculture, have also been shown to have an increased risk of suicide, the UK’s leading suicide prevention charity is raising awareness amongst men in these environments to let them know they do not need to face things alone.
Nigel, a Samaritans volunteer in Northern Ireland who is a farmer said: “The farming communities tend to have less contact with the outside world, they are isolated, feel undervalued and have many financial issues. Many are working full time in jobs and trying to farm at the same time.
"From my experience farming communities are less likely to seek help as they don’t want other people to know about their problems, there is a real fear of being judged. As a farmer myself I get a lot from volunteering with Samaritans, I can be there for people when they need someone."
Speaking about the Charity’s Real People, Real Stories campaign, Professor Siobhan O’Neill, Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland said: “People who live in rural areas can feel disconnected and isolated, and this can lead to suicidal pain. There is so much stigma surrounding mental health and it can be hard to find the words to say that we are struggling. It is important that we all understand and speak about our feelings, and that people who are suffering reach out for support. Suicidal thoughts are a sign that something about our lives needs to change; and this campaign shows us the benefits of reaching out for help and reminds us that change is possible."
Alan Heron, Regional Director for Samaritans in NI, commented: “Samaritans is here for anyone struggling to cope, no matter who you are or where you are. Mental health challenges and suicide are complex, going beyond simply where you live or what profession you are in but these can be factors. The increased risk factors for those living in rural and agricultural settings such as poor access to services, isolation and persistent loneliness mean it’s essential for us to do more to reach people in these environments. We hope this new Real People, Real Stories campaign will raise awareness of the support that’s out there and encourage more people to seek help early on, so that we can continue the drive to reduce suicide rates across NI.”