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The Qualitative Explorations of Mental Health in Rural Adolescents and UK Sheep Farmers

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Fiona Boyd
Publication date15/08/2022
Number of pages183
Awarding Institution
Award date18/07/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explores mental health in rural adolescents and UK sheep farmers,
comprising four parts: a literature review, research paper, critical appraisal, and ethics section. The literature review is a meta-synthesis of rural adolescents’ experiences and attitudes towards mental health. Data from 16 papers were synthesised using a meta-ethnographic approach, producing four overarching themes: (1) Stigma from others and the self, (2) Close-knit and claustrophobic communities, (3) Personal factors that facilitate support, and (4) Service-related barriers and facilitators. Findings highlight the unique experiences and needs of rural adolescents that must be recognised. Clinical implications include mental health training in schools. The research paper explores mental health in sheep farmers, with a focus on the challenges that they face to their psychological wellbeing, how these challenges are managed, and what mental health services must learn to support the farming community appropriately. Six farmers took part in individual semi-structured interviews which were analysed using thematic analysis, generating four themes: (1) Self-reliance as necessary for farming but a barrier to help-seeking; (2) Needing to be understood as a farmer to speak about mental health difficulties; (3) Working with the uncontrollable and unpredictable: attempting to tolerate frustration and uncertainty; and (4) Feeling bashed by the press and social media yet seeing the potential for support and connection online. Findings suggest distinct psychological stressors and experiences pertaining to farmers which have implications for appropriate support for this group. Clinical implications include psychological first-aid training for professionals who work with farmers, the development of culturally competent mental health services and the co-location of mental health support with farming related business. The critical appraisal reflects and expands upon some of the methodological, reflexive, and practical issues that arose throughout the research process and serves as a useful resource for future researchers in this field.