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History & CommunityRural isolation and mental health

Rural isolation and mental health

Part of our series of audio interviews, Seth Dellow talked with West Dorset MP
Chris Loder, about local mental health issues, as well as the impact of the pandemic.

In a wide-ranging interview, recorded at his Poundbury office, West Dorset MP Chris Loder cites attitudes to social responsibility and the disproportionate distribution of economic resources as causes of some of the problems faced by rural areas. The fascinating interview, part of our series on mental health throughout the wider local community, gives an interesting insight into how the softly-spoken man from Sherborne went from life as a local farmer to Member of Parliament. It also gives an insight into some of the personal challenges he has faced throughout his own life, as well as during his short time as an MP.
Speaking about the problems of loneliness and isolation faced by many in rural and farming communities, he stated how ‘shocking’ the suicide rate is and how it is a ‘cause for national embarrassment.’
Although drawn to a more national role in politics during the Brexit debate, Chris Loder had served on West Dorset District Council to represent villages to the south of Sherborne since 2013 and was Association Chairman of West Dorset Conservative Association for three and a half years until August 2019. Now in a position with much more public scrutiny and with high expectations from constituents, he hints at some of the frustrations of being a new MP and how difficult it can be to create change, especially at a time of such huge uncertainty. ‘The reality of being a member of parliament of course, is that you are here as a representative of this constituency—to hold the government to account, rather than being a government minister—and that is something that is not well understood,’ he says. ‘Regrettably, I don’t have the ability to pull a direct string and make something happen tomorrow, but I can hold others to account in doing so.’
From subjects such as his challenge to Government about what it is doing to help gay farmers, to the lack of housing to help young people stay in the South West, as well as his concerns about what can and can’t be believed about COVID-19 data, Seth Dellow’s interview with the West Dorset MP is illuminating.
‘From my interview with Chris, it was clear that rural locations, such as that of West Dorset and the surrounding areas, have individual and unique problems relating to mental health’ explained Seth. ‘Despite the seemingly challenging situation, it has been an intriguing opportunity to talk to Chris about the work he has been doing in his constituency… What has struck me most during this interview, and the others in this series, is that no one is immune to mental health issues, and reaching out for support is never a bad thing to do.’
This interview, as with all the others in the mental health series, will be available on the Marshwood Vale website, at

Listen to Part 1 of the Chris Loder interviews at the following link:

The interview is in three parts which will be released over the weeks coming up to Christmas. To be alerted when new links are available, email a request to be updated to

Seth Dellow is a University of Exeter student reading History & Politics, with a keen interest in political history and public policy. Aside from academia, he is active in the local community, regularly volunteering and has won the Pride of Somerset Youth Awards twice. His experience extends to the media sector and he enjoys interviewing people from a wide range of backgrounds, often to discuss the emerging themes of the day. You can learn more about Seth at

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