As she steps down from her term as Chair of Montgomeryshire YFC, Bryony Wilson is urging young people to seek support if they are struggling with their mental health.
Bryony was on hand this week to reveal a Talking Bench which has been created by Berriew YFC’s Alfie Taylor. Thanks to funding from PAVO, Young Farmers’ Clubs across Powys have been invited to design and create Talking Benches which are hoped will become a community focal point:
“The benches are our way to tackle community isolation,” says Bryony. “In Berriew, for example, we have lots of people who live on their own. The benches will be placed at the heart of village life and they will have details of Helplines if people need some support.”
And, as part of the Welsh Government’s Help Us Help You campaign which is encouraging people to help protect their own mental health by accessing free support, she opened up about her own experiences:
“I struggled a couple of years ago. It all stemmed from going for a smear test and being told I had an abnormal result,” says Bryony. “Everything turned out to be just fine but it resulted in me feeling very anxious before I knew the result. I couldn’t sleep and I was having panic attacks day and night. It not only had a big impact on me but my family too as they didn’t know how to help me.
“The NHS was fantastic. The doctor reassured me that it was anxiety and he put me on medication. I can now recognise the symptoms which helps but I still take the medication. It’s important I’m open about it because people probably wouldn’t think I’d be someone who struggles as I come across as bubbly and confident.”
It was her own experiences of sleepless nights and panic attacks that led her to adopt MIND Cymru as the official charity for Montgomeryshire YFC. In addition, members have undertaken mental health training with The DPJ Foundation which is a Welsh mental health charity that supports those in agriculture and rural communities.
PAVO has also awarded a grant to Young Farmers’ Clubs which was invested in mental health peer support sessions by Mind Cymru as well as opportunities to try Tai Chi for relaxation.
“People close to me have struggled with depression,” adds Bryony. “My Uncle took his own life in 2020 so it’s really important that we encourage people to talk and come forward if they are struggling. I wouldn’t want another family going through what we have.
“Farmers, particularly, spend so much time on their own so the chances of opening up to anyone are even slimmer. I think it’s true that most men aren’t very good at talking about their feelings and I’m sure farmers are worse. They’re brought up to be strong, practical and tough. But actually, the strong and practical thing to do when you’re struggling is to get help,” adds Bryony.
The Welsh Government’s Help Us Help You campaign is encouraging people to make small changes to help them lead healthier lifestyles such as protecting your mental health.
Joy Garfitt is the Assistant Director for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities from the Powys Teaching Health Board. She said: “There are small things we can do to help protect our mental health at a time when levels of anxiety are higher. We know that poor mental health can be a problem within agriculture and in areas of rural isolation but there is free support available and we’d encourage anyone struggling to come forward.”
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is free support available to you. The NHS Wales SilverCloud online programme can help with anxiety, depression and stress. You can self-refer at https://nhswales.silvercloudhealth.com/signup
You can also self-refer to Ponthafren Association for counselling at www.ponthafren.org.uk or call 01686 621586.