As any farmer or rancher can tell you, farm life can be demanding and stressful. It’s even tougher now with trade wars, natural disasters, depressed commodity prices, labor shortages and many other issues weighing heavily on the farm economy. Given these challenges, more and more farmers today are experiencing stress and mental health issues, either directly or by having a friend or family member in distress. No one is immune, as AFBF President Zippy Duvall pointed out in a recent Zipline column. And the impact creates a ripple effect in rural communities, affecting lenders, farm business advisors, field representatives, clergy, teachers and others who interact with families in stress.
Throughout Farm Bureau’s history, we’ve always looked out for our members’ best interests and have worked hard to help. In keeping with that tradition, here are some resources to help farmers and ranchers deal with stress in their communities, their families and their personal lives.
Warning Signs of Stress
When someone is experiencing a mental health challenge, they may not even realize it. Here’s how you can identify someone who may be at risk.
- Change in routines: Farmers or members of the farm family may change who attends a market, stop attending regular meetings or religious activities, drop out of other groups, or fail to stop at the local coffee shop or feed mill.
- Decline in the care of domestic animals: Livestock or pets may not be cared for in the usual way.
- Increase in illness: Farmers or farm family members may experience more upper respiratory illnesses (cold, flu) or other chronic conditions (aches, pains, persistent cough, migraines).
- Increase in farm accidents: The risk of farm accidents increases with fatigue or loss of ability to concentrate. Children may be at risk if there isn’t alternative child care.
- Decline in appearance of farmstead: The farm family no longer takes pride in the way farm buildings and grounds appear.
- Signs of stress in children: Farm children may act out, show a decline in academic performance, or be increasingly absent from school. They may also show signs of physical abuse or neglect, or become depressed.
- Decreased interest: Farmers or farm families may be less willing to commit to future activities, sign up for gatherings, or show interest in community events.
Source: NY FarmNet
Five Steps to Help Someone at Risk
- Keep them safe
- Be there
- Help them connect
- Follow up
Managing & Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Farm Stress
Based on more than three decades of working with farmers and ranchers and others in the agricultural industry, this paper by Dr. John Shutske of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension answers questions such as:
- What causes stress for farmers and those who care about them?
- How do farmers and farm families successfully cope with stress?
- How can farmers and their families help themselves when there is too much stress?
See this resource with great tips on how to manage and reduce farm stress.
Need Help? Know Someone Who Does?
Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
- Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat
Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
New Training Program to Help Farmers Manage Stress
Recognizing the high levels of stress affecting America’s farmers and ranchers, Farm Credit, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union have partnered on a program to train individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers to recognize signs of stress and offer help. Read more here.
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 Morning Consult research poll sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Farm State of Mind
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