Farmers face a range of factors that negatively influence their mental health and suicide risk, yet have limited access to appropriate support. Behavioural activation (BA) is an evidence-based therapy that can be effectively delivered by nonclinical workers. Working with members of farming communities to deliver BA to their peers has the potential to overcome many well-established barriers to mental health help-seeking and improve outcomes for this at-risk group.
This paper describes the findings of a co-design phase informing the development of a peer (farmer)-led approach for delivering BA for farmers living with depression or low mood.
This qualitative study used a co-design approach involving members of the target community. Focus groups were transcribed and analysed using Thematic Analysis and the Framework approach.
Ten online focus groups with 22 participants were held over 3 months. Four overarching, interlinked themes were identified: (i) filling the gap in rural mental health support; (ii) alignment with the farming context—tailoring how, where and when we engage about mental health; (iii) the ‘messenger’ is as important as the message; and (iv) sustainability, governance and support.
Findings suggest BA could be a contextually appropriate model of support for the farming community—given its practical and solution-focused approach—and could help improve access to support. Having peer workers deliver the intervention was viewed as appropriate. Ensuring governance structures are developed to support peers to deliver the intervention will be essential to facilitate effectiveness, safety and sustainability.
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.