Breaking the stigma: Peer-led Behavioural Activation interventions for farmers’ mental health

Farming is a high-stress occupation with a range of factors that negatively impact farmers’ mental health, including financial pressures and isolation. Yet, farmers often lack access to appropriate support.

Our recent study has shown that Behavioural Activation (BA), an evidence-based therapy, can be effectively delivered by nonclinical workers within the farming community. By working with members of the farming community, this approach could overcome the well-established barriers to mental health help-seeking and improve outcomes for farmers.

The co-design phase of the study involved ten online focus groups with 22 participants and identified four overarching themes: filling the gap in rural mental health support, aligning with the farming context, the importance of the messenger, and ensuring sustainability and support.

The findings suggest that peer-led BA interventions can be an appropriate model of support for the farming community, and ensuring governance structures to support peers to deliver the intervention will be essential to facilitate effectiveness, safety and sustainability.

The insights gained through co-design have been critical to the success of developing this new model of support for members of farming communities experiencing depression or low mood. This approach could make a significant difference to the mental health of farmers and help address the mental health crisis in farming communities.