Mental health first aider encourages more talk - Fruit & Vine

Mental health first aider encourages more talk

During Mental Health Awareness Week, Helen Hook, who volunteers as a mental health first aider, is encouraging those who are struggling to talk and and stay active.

Mental Health Awareness Week YANA
Helen at a YANA event. Image credit: YANA

Seeing first-hand how mental health problems can spiral, Helen Hooks decided she wanted to help others.

After witnessing her husband struggle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Helen – who’s worked in the agricultural sector for 30 years – knew there would be others in need.

Following in-depth training courses, Helen now volunteers for YANA, You Are Not Alone.

YANA provides support for those involved in agriculture and other rural businesses affected by stress and depression.

Mental Health Awareness Week YANA
Helen Hooks (right) Image credit: YANA

Speaking to Fruit&Vine Helen said: I’ve just always wanted to help others and be there for other people in their time of need.

I used to be a farm manager and have worked in this industry for 30 years so have a thorough understanding of the industry as a whole.

Following on from my own personal experiences, I decided to train so I could help others.

It makes me feel like I’m giving something back and I take great pleasure in knowing I’m someone others seek help and support from.”

Mental health and movement

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Movement’ and moving more for your mental health.

Helen continued: I’d really recommend, if you’re struggling, finding a hobby and being more active. It’s helped me loads.

I love photography, and lego, and walking the dogs always helps!

But I understand how tiring the work can be and after a long day, you probably won’t feel like doing anything – but try!

It’s an isolating industry which is why it’s so important to talk more and do more.

Try going for walks, or even to a local pub and get talking with others. Simple activities like painting by numbers can help too if you don’t want to or can’t move.”

Hands being held in support for mental health
Image credit: Unsplash

You are not alone

YANA, along with the Farming Community Network (FCN), hosted the ‘Yarn in a barn’ initiative last year.

The event addressed loneliness in farming, whilst providing opportunity to bring farmers together.

Helen worked at the free event and said: It was absolutely fantastic!

It was the first year and people could come down and have a free pint, or squash, enjoy a hog roast, and make cakes.

It got people talking which was great and it was an ideal opportunity for me to spot those who weren’t actively seeking help but needed it!

Despite there still being a stigma about mental health, more people are talking which is great! Even the men are getting better at it!

The more we talk, the more improvement we’ll see, which will only be a great thing for this industry and people in general.”

If you, or someone you know is struggling, the Samaritans operates a 24-hour service, every day of the year.

Call 116 123 from any phone, for free.

If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

YANA provides mental health support and training in East Anglia and can be contacted on their helpline 0300 323 0400 or email

You can also speak to the Farming Community Network helpline: 03000 111 999/

The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution helplineis available 24 hours a day and free to call: 0800 188 4444.

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