14 September 2023

Farmer praises ‘compassionate’ William for mental health charity support

14 September 2023

A farmer who has struggled with his mental health has said he was “speechless” after meeting the Prince and Princess of Wales and praised them for their support for his charity.

William and Kate visited Kings Pitt Farm in Aconbury, Herefordshire, on Thursday to learn more about We Are Farming Minds, a charity set up by Sam Stables and his wife Emily to help support the mental health of farmers in rural communities throughout the county.

Mr Stables, a father-of-two, said chatting with the royals was like “speaking to good friends” and that the pair were passionate about mental health.

We Are Farming Minds offers Herefordshire farmers fully funded access to a range of services including counselling, a 24-hour phone and text support line, free mental health awareness workshops and social events throughout the year to break feelings of isolation.

William and Kate dropped by the farm to meet Mr and Mrs Stables, who are tenants of the Duchy of Cornwall, and some of the charity’s trustees, and were also treated to a sheep-herding display by the couple’s dog Hugh.

The couple sat down with some of those who have benefited from the charity, enjoying biscuits and Herefordshire apple juice as they listened to how the organisation had helped them.

Speaking after their visit, Mr Stables said: “They want to support us and support British farming, which is great.

“William is a compassionate and understanding person, you couldn’t want to speak to a nicer chap.

“I know we will have a fantastic partnership with them. In agriculture, there are tricky times ahead, so to have his support is amazing.”

Mr Stables has been open about his own struggles with his mental health, which led to the formation of We Are Farming Minds.

He said: “A couple of years ago, I went through a really bad time and I made the decision I didn’t want to be here anymore.

“I know how tough it is in the farming industry and the support I had was unbelievable. It is such a tough industry and it has a massive impact on our lives.”

Mrs Stables, who has also struggled with her mental health, said there was a “massive stigma” in the farming community about mental health.

“The statistic is at least one farmer a week takes their life in the UK, so we decided we wanted to be a part of breaking that statistic,” she said.

Mr Stables said: “We’re immensely proud. British farming is an incredible industry with amazing families but isolation is a huge problem in the community.”

Explaining why farmers in particular struggled with mental health issues, Mrs Stables said: “Everything is out of your control in farming, whether that be the weather, the death of your animals, the prices, it is always so out of your control.

“You are often on your own, sat in a tractor by yourself and then the thoughts start ticking and I think that’s when the isolation and the loneliness kicks in.

“There is a stigma around it, not wanting to talk, thinking they should be strong men and women.”

Speaking after William and Kate left, Mrs Stables said the couple’s support for their charity would help get the message out to more farmers, that there was support available.

She said: “Hopefully it will help spread the word. I think it was very powerful for them to hear the stories of those involved in the charity.”

Matthew Morris, rural director for the Duchy of Cornwall, said William had tasked him with being the best estate for mental health support for the people who worked for them and rented their spaces.

He set about creating a mental health strategy which would provide ongoing mental health support to all its tenants, with a specific focus on tenants in rural and more isolated communities.

He said: “Prince William has been very clear that mental health is one of his main priorities. He looked at me and said, ‘Matt, what are we doing about this?’ So I sat down and wrote a strategy.

“We have enacted it within six weeks of him looking at it and saying yes, and I know he will keep checking in to see how we’re getting on with it.

“Everyone within the Duchy thinks it is great that he cares. If this helps just one person, then it has been worth it.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox