Smith: With challenges in the farm economy weighing heavily on farmers and ranchers, the American Farm Bureau Federation commissioned a nationwide poll to learn more about the state of mental health and wellness in rural America. Ray Atkinson, AFBF director of strategic communications, talks about some of the top takeaways from the survey.
Atkinson: Four in five farmers and farm workers said financial issues, fear of losing the farm, and farm or business problems impact the mental health of farmers. This is very concerning because of the depressed state of the farm economy. We know it’s having an impact. But one of the positive things we learned was that an overwhelming percentage of rural adults, 91 percent, said mental health is important to them and/or their family.
Smith: Eighty-two percent of farmers and farm workers also said mental health was important to them, which Atkinson says is encouraging. A majority of rural adults say there is at least a fair amount of stigma associated with mental health.
Atkinson: Those numbers were lower for stigma around seeking treatment or help for a mental health condition, and three in four rural adults said it’s important to reduce stigma about mental health in the agriculture community. We know there’s a great deal of stigma associated with mental health, particularly in rural areas, so it was good to hear that rural Americans want to break the cycle of stigma.
Smith: Atkinson says AFBF is working with state Farm Bureaus to compile information on available education and support programs in each state.
Atkinson: We know from our work on the rural opioid issue that there are a huge amount of resources already there. In fact, sometimes the amount of information is just overwhelming. So, in many cases, it’s just a matter of knowing where the resources are, which ones are the most reputable and helpful, and then making those resources easy to access.
Smith: Chad Smith, Washington.