Special Achievement of the Year

Lee Thompson

Lee Thompson, Wayland Farms 

Mental health is a significant problem in farming, never more so than in this most difficult of years. But it is still something that is rarely spoken about.

Lee Thompson, a finishing fieldsman for Wayland Farms who started his journey in the industry as a stockman in 2012, wants to do something about this.

He started Flat White Chats as a podcast designed to break the stigma around mental health, beginning by sharing his own story of mental health battles.

The idea was to create an environment in which people felt comfortable to either talk to Lee or to others – ‘to help people take a step and talk today, to create a new tomorrow’

A number of guests have shared their mental health journey.

“The first step is the hardest and the bravest; but it’s also the first step towards the next chapter in your life,” Lee says on his website (https://flatwhitechats. com) that has followed to further promote mental health awareness, and sell merchandise, with profits going to two charities – the Farming Community Network and the Restart Rugby campaign.

His brave efforts to raise the profile of mental health in farming have earned him fresh respect within the industry, and now the National Pig Awards Special Achievement Award.

“Winning the award means a massive amount, and it’s something I will treasure for the rest of my life,” Lee said

“This all wouldn’t be possible without having guests willing to openly share their stories with me, and people tuning in weekly. It was an off the cuff decision one evening to make Flat White Chats come to life – I never could have imagined what it has become and the impact it has made on the people around me – it’s pretty special. 

“My priority was to make sure people know that it’s not weak to speak. That first step is always the hardest with mental health, but it is also the bravest and best step that you could take. It can be as simple as just chatting to a friend whilst out for a walk, or it can be going to see a professional. Whichever you choose, it’s brave!” 

Lee, who, like the other finalists, is an active member of Young NPA, hopes to keep growing Flat White Chats and is aiming to do a live event within the next year, if restrictions permit, where he and guests discuss mental health in front of an audience, helping to break the stigma. 

“Working within the agricultural sector, mental health issues are prominent and, with long and lonely hours, checking in on each other is important,” Lee said.

“Hopefully Flat White Chats can encourage people to do this – to check on their colleagues and fellow farmers, to allow people to realise they aren’t alone and have a major support network around them.”

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