Stress is putting Westcountry health at risk
Families in the Westcountry are buckling under the strain of modern life as new figures reveal increasing numbers of people being hospitalised with stress and anxiety.
According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), NHS hospitals in England dealt with 6,370 admissions for stress in the 12 months to May 2012.
That is a 7% rise on the previous 12-month period.
Sylvia Powlesland, director of the Cornwall branch of crisis charity the Samaritans, said the financial turmoil was playing a part.
"Sometimes people just do not know where to turn," she said.
"Calls to our helpline about financial worries have trebled in the last three years since the onset of the financial crisis.
"One-in-five calls are from people who are having money problems or financial worries about their jobs, or not being able to pay the mortgage. It is quite a jump."
The Truro-based branch handles around 50,000 calls a year and Mrs Powlesland said the volume was going up all the time.
According to the HSCIC, in the South West, there were 660 hospital admissions for anxiety and 353 for stress in the 12 months up to May.
The lovely countryside in rural areas like the Westcountry can mask high levels of stress, with farmers among the main groups at risk of taking their own life.
Alison Hawes, who along with her partner farms arable, sheep and vegetables at Holbeton, near Plymouth, said the economic downturn coupled with atrocious summer weather was putting rural communities under strain.
"People are very stressed," she said.
"My partner has been on farms all his life and he said he had never known it so bad."
Ms Hawes said farmers often had to just get on with it.
"If you work for someone else, then you can take time off and go to the doctor and maybe get some pills.
"If you are a farmer and you are not there to do the work, no one else is and so you just keep going."
She said terrible weather had left many farmers at their wits end.
"We are weather dependent and the weather has been against us."
Clayton Elliott, of the Penzance-based charity Counselling for Social Change, which offers low cost therapy across the county, said there was a "growing list" of issues that people were feeling stressed about.
He added that a summer which kicked off with the Diamond Jubilee celebration and saw the success of the Olympics and Paralympics might have put people's feelings of being stressed on hold.
"I think there was a bit of a bubble and as we come into winter there will be a spike in people looking for counselling services."
Liz Redfern, director of nursing and lead director for mental health issues at NHS South of England, said stress was a serious health problem.
"We are all subject to varying levels and types of stress and it affects people differently, but one thing is clear – stress can have a serious impact on health and wellbeing.
"We know that some people, particularly men, are reluctant to admit when they are feeling under pressure and unable to cope, but the reality is that this may make things worse over time and lead to more serious mental or physical illness."
She added that people often felt they were wasting their doctor's time by complaining of stress, but nothing could be further from the truth.
As well as mental health problems, sustained periods of stress, anxiety and depression can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
The new report comes on the heels of a Government scheme to reduce the numbers of suicides in the UK.
It also follows research which confirmed stressful jobs can be linked to heart attacks.
Scientists found that people in stressful jobs, with a high workload and little control over decisions, are 23% more likely to experience an event linked to heart disease than less stressed individuals.