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Prioritizing Our Farm State of Mind

Zippy Duvall


photo credit: AFBF

Across farm country, folks show up for one another. No need is too big and no task too small for us to pitch in and help our neighbors in rural America. Even when we are surrounded by a loving community, however, it can be hard to admit when we need help. Especially when we need a little extra help regarding our stress and mental health. But as we like to say at Farm Bureau, a healthy farm or ranch begins with a healthy you. That’s why we are committed to ensuring that the dedicated men and women who grow the nutritious food for our tables also have the resources they need for their well-being.

Farmers and ranchers are resilient people—we are known for our quiet strength. But our instinct to press on can also hold us back from getting the help we need. We all need to remember that it’s OK not to be OK. The longer we walk the road of life, the more certain it is that we will face our share of tough times. Often what we need most in those times is a friend to simply be there and listen. I don’t know how I would have made it through my own darkest days without someone simply asking me, “How are you doing?”—and then, listening.

We all need to remember that it’s OK not to be OK.

May is Mental Health Month, and a good reminder for all of us to check in with our family, friends and neighbors. Through our Farm State of Mind campaign, Farm Bureau has been working to raise awareness, reduce stigma and connect farmers, ranchers and their rural communities with stress and mental health resources. Our online, interactive directory connects you to resources in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, and provides a great starting point if you, or someone you know, needs support. We have also partnered with Farm Credit and National Farmers Union to provide free, on-demand training to help people understand the causes of stress, reduce the stigma around mental health and learn the warning signs of stress and suicide.

Our team at American Farm Bureau works closely with state Farm Bureau members and staff and we are excited to see many states leading the way in addressing stress and mental health needs for farmers and ranchers in their regions. These state-led initiatives address roadblocks like financial and access barriers by providing mental health vouchers to connect farmers with free counseling services, including virtual options for those in remote areas. Others are reducing the stigma around mental health through social media campaigns that encourage farmers to share their stories and messages of support.

Thanks to our work across the Farm Bureau family, we are making a difference, but there is still work to be done. According to a national AFBF survey at the beginning of this year, there is still stigma around mental health and seeking help or treatment. But that feeling has decreased by nearly 10% among farmers and farm employees. What I was most encouraged to see from this survey is that more farmers and farm employees—92%—feel comfortable talking to friends and family about stress and mental health solutions than they were just a couple years ago. That number is up 22% from April 2019! We also found that half of farmers and their employees are more aware of resources to help manage stress and mental health conditions than they were a year ago. Just imagine how many lives may have been saved because more people are having these important conversations. Even small interactions can make a big difference.

We’ve all heard the saying that “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” Well, I don’t think that gets it quite right. We cannot go it alone in this life by toughing it out, and we weren’t meant to either. Everyone needs someone to help pick them up or sit alongside them in the hard times. If you think you might need help, reach out to a friend or family member. And if someone comes to you, take the time to listen. You never know how much of an impact those few minutes may have. We become much stronger when we stand together.

Zippy Duvall

Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.