Calls for urgent action on rural mental health echoed by BASC

A beater

BASC is backing calls by a group of MPs for “urgent and meaningful” government action on rural mental health in England.

The association is now calling for gamekeepers to be involved in the delivery of recommendations, due to their integral role in many rural, often isolated communities.

A report by the government’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on rural mental health outlines a series of key recommendations including: 

  • Defra and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) should establish a new joint rural mental health policy and delivery team to improve access to and outcomes for rural mental health services.
  • The government should relieve intense pressure on the delivery of NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) by expanding preventive mental health support into all schools and colleges in rural areas, and by supporting Early Support Hubs.
  • Defra and DHSC should upgrade local preparedness for the mental health impacts of extreme events such as flooding and animal health crises.
  • The government should fund and roll out mental health first aid training aimed at creating a critical mass of front-line personnel, who are able to help farmers and those working and living in rural industries and areas.

BASC submitted a response to the Committee, which included evidence of the impact that physical and online abuse targeted at gamekeepers has on their mental wellbeing. It also outlined the mental health benefits of participating in shooting activities.

Dr Conor O’Gorman, BASC’s head of policy and campaigns, said: “Isolation is a key mental health issue for many living and working in rural areas and this is reflected in the committee report and its recommendations. Gamekeepers are the beating heart of many rural communities, bringing people together not only on shoot days in the winter months, but in the myriad roles they carry out all year round.

“The voice of the gamekeeping community needs to be heard and understood by government when acting on the committee’s recommendations and BASC will help ensure this happens.”

A BASC-led survey undertaken in 2021 showed nearly two-thirds of gamekeepers suffered abuse and/or threat because of their occupation. In certain instances this led to mental health deterioration and relationship breakdowns. 

BASC Scotland has been calling for the creation of a gamekeeping taskforce in parliament, amid concerns the profession is being increasingly marginalised. Mental health and wellbeing will be a key focus within the taskforce. 

BASC takes the topic of mental health incredibly seriously. We highly recommend the services of the Gamekeepers’ Welfare Trust (GWT) for gamekeepers who would like to talk to a member of their trained team. You can call the GWT helpline on 0300 123 3088.