As any farmer or rancher can tell you, farm life can be demanding and stressful. It’s reaching a critical stage with coronavirus impacts on top of trade wars, natural disasters, depressed commodity prices, labor shortages and other factors. Given these ongoing challenges, it’s no surprise that more farmers and farm families are experiencing stress and mental health issues.
If you, or someone you know, are struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health challenge, you are not alone. Check out the following resources and follow #FarmStateofMind on social media to show your support. A healthy farm is nothing without a healthy you.
Rural Resilience Training
Recognizing the high levels of stress affecting America’s farmers and ranchers, Farm Credit, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union partnered on a program to train individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers, providing them with the skills to
- Understand the sources of stress,
- Identify effective communication strategies,
- Reduce stigma related to mental health, and
- Learn the warning signs of stress and suicide.
Any Farm Bureau member can register for this free online training here.
Know the Warning Signs
When loved ones, neighbors or others you care about are experiencing mental health challenges, they may not even realize it. Here’s how you can identify someone who may be at risk.
- Change in routines or social activities
- Decline in the care of domestic animals
- Increase in illness or other chronic conditions
- Increase in farm accidents
- Decline in appearance of the farmstead
- Signs of stress in children including struggles with school
- Decreased interest in activities or events
Learn more about recognizing the signs of chronic stress, depression or suicidal intent and what you can do to help at NY FarmNet.
Start the Conversation
Although it may feel like it’s out of your comfort zone, you can start a conversation in any number of ways:
- Acknowledge what they’re going through. “I know a lot of people have lost their markets this year, which can be devastating. How are you holding up?”
- Remind them of something they’ve said and express interest. “I heard you say your meeting with John was a disaster. Can you tell me about it?”
- Share a habit you’ve seen change. “I’ve noticed you haven’t come to coffee for a long time. Are you doing OK?”
- Don’t wait for them to ask. “You seem to have a lot on your mind. How can I help?”
- If they’re willing to reach out, encourage them. “I’ve heard that talking to [a counselor, a doctor, a religious or spiritual leader, etc.] can be really helpful. Have you considered that?”
Try not to compare their challenges to someone else’s, or minimize what they’re going through. What matters most is showing genuine care and empathy, and listening.
Five Steps to Help Someone in Emotional Pain
- Keep them safe
- Be there
- Help them connect
- Stay connected
Visit the National Institute of Mental Health website for more information.
Need Help? Know Someone Who Does?
- Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat
Both resources are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area. For more information, visit the website that provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress.
- Call 800-691-4336
Avera’s hotline will connect you with a skilled, compassionate mental health professional who can help you navigate whatever you’re experiencing – such as symptoms or signs of anxiety or depression.
- Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA offers a number of valuable resources including treatment locators, SAMHSA's National Helpline, and other important information.
AFBF’s Research on Farmer Mental Health
A strong majority of farmers and farmworkers say financial issues, farm or business problems and fear of losing the farm impact farmers’ mental health, according to a national research poll sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Additional Resources for Managing Stress, Anxiety or Depression
- Managing & Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Farm Stress: A peer-reviewed paper by John Shutske, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Managing Farm Stress: Mental health and stress management resources from Michigan State University Extension
- Podcasts, videos and information on farm and ranch stress from North Dakota State University
- TransFARMation: A radio and podcast series focused on coping with stress, from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Red River Farm Network
For More Information
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