Long before COVID-19 gripped the U.S., farmers and ranchers were struggling. Several years of falling commodity prices, natural disasters and a trade war with a major purchaser of key farm products like soybeans and pork hit rural America hard, and not just financially. Farmers’ mental health is at risk too.
As part of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s ongoing effort to raise awareness, reduce stigma and share resources related to mental health, the organization partnered with RFD-TV to produce a one-hour episode of “Rural America Live” on farm stress and farmer mental health.
The episode features AFBF President Zippy Duvall, Farm Credit Council President Todd Van Hoose and National Farmers Union President Rob Larew.
“As a third-generation farmer, I know how heavy the stress of farm life can weigh on a family. Farmers from around the country have shared painful stories of missed warning signs and loved ones lost,” said Duvall. “Now COVID-19 has the entire country at its most vulnerable on so many levels. American Farm Bureau is committed to giving farmers and ranchers the resources they need to reach out if they are struggling or to help family and friends in need of mental health support.”
AFBF’s rural mental health initiative, Farm State of Mind, provides resources to help farmers and ranchers identify and address anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. Among them is the Rural Resilience Training Program, which is geared toward individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers.
The free online program gives participants the skills to understand the sources of stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce stigma related to mental health concerns and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources. The training takes about four to five hours to complete and can be done over multiple sessions.
RFD-TV’s “Rural America Live” on farmer mental health will also feature Dr. John Shutske of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Courtney Cuthbertson of the University of Illinois, Rev. Nila Cogan, a Farm Bureau member in Pennsylvania, and author and speaker Matt Rush, former New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau administrator and a former member of the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee.
The program will air Thursday, Aug. 27, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9 p.m. Central.