PRESSURES on farmers are putting them under increasing mental strain with some even considering suicide, according to a chaplain who works in the rural community.

The Rev Marion Mashiter, who regularly attends the Junction 36 rural auction centre, near Milnthorpe, to talk to farmers, said the pressures were forcing some stressed farmers to simply leave the industry.

These included important but costly health and welfare rules and static prices paid for livestock at auction. And she added the uncertainty surrounding Brexit was also partly to blame.

"People can't forward plan," said Mrs Mashiter, saying that whatever decision was finally reached would make 'a big difference'.

And she added: "There are farmers getting out of the jobs - they're giving up."

Her comments come as a new scheme is rolled out at Junction 36, with medical professionals operating a monthly clinic where farmers can drop in to get health advice.

The clinics are being run by Kendal Integrated Care Community (ICC), comprising health professionals and representatives of councils and voluntary organisations who have joined together to 'help work with the local population'.

Alison Nicholson, of Kendal ICC, described how the farming community sometimes did not seek medical help for physical or mental ailments as early as the rest of the population.

She said: "We know that in many cases the farming community is less likely than the rest of the population to seek help or advice from health professionals.

"This means that when they do seek help, any condition they have has become more serious and is therefore more difficult to treat.

“So while the farming community do get plenty of fresh air, they also tend to work different hours to the rest of the population, have disturbed sleep, may not eat or drink healthily all the time, and may not have access to good health prevention advice."

Mrs Mashiter said the first clinic, held last Thursday, saw a 'constant flow' of farmers seeking advice - and added that many others had contacted her since to say they would attend the next.

The clinics are being run in addition to the sessions held by Mrs Mashiter, who added: "They (farmers) tend to offload to us - recently there's been threatened suicides and things like that.

"If they can offload to somebody - not in a religious way, just somebody to talk to, often we can point them in a direction to get help."

John Allen, a farmer at Ings, near Kendal, said pressures on farmers now were worse than they had ever been, and uncertainty over the country's future was not helping.

Mr Allen, 87, said: "Nobody knows what's going to happen at the end of this month.

"Prices are worse than what they were 10 years ago. They don't come down in shops.

"Who's going to make money? It certainly isn't farmers."

Emma Grunnill, 30, who farms at Gatebeck, just outside Kendal, agreed the current political situation was making things difficult.

"When we go to auction and sell lamb, there's no set pattern for pricing," she said.

"Because of the uncertainty of where Brexit is going to take us - some weeks they [prices] are up, some weeks they are down.

"It's just like anybody in any line of work - it's like me saying, you don't know if you're going to get your salary next year. Obviously it's going to put a strain on them."

She added another difficulty was people eating less meat and dairy, and the relatively recent rise of veganism, the supporters of which tended to "shout a lot louder" than the farming community.

Farmer James Airey, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Westmorland and Lonsdale, acknowledged uncertainty over Brexit was not helping the industry, but pointed out farming had always been a difficult occupation.

He added: "We need to make sure that we get the industry on a sound financial footing going forward so that people involved in agriculture have that certainty that they are going to make a living."

A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said that it was difficult to label any given period as worse than any other for farmers, but it was, in general, a high-pressured industry.

He said: "They can be as hardworking and diligent and can be, but their farming can still end badly and be a failure through no fault of their own - that can be a political decision or something to do with the weather."