Elevating the Farm State of Mind

Viewpoints / The Zipline January 19, 2022

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“How are you doing?” It’s a simple question, but it can make all the difference if we’re willing to ask and stop to listen to the answer. Anyone who’s been under the weight of stress or grief knows how a friend—or even a stranger—taking a moment to care and listen can help lift that burden. For farmers and ranchers, it can be tough to take that first step. We are known for our grit and resilience. We are people who don’t shy away from a challenge, but we are not immune to the stresses of life and the toll they can take. But we are getting better at facing these challenges together.

At the American Farm Bureau, we have grown our efforts in recent years to remind everyone that it’s OK not to be OK. We began working with National Farmers Union in 2017 on the Farm Town Strong campaign to address the opioid epidemic in rural America. Our organizations found common ground on the dangers facing our rural communities, the misconception that it’s just an urban problem, and the stigma that causes barriers to treatment. Our focus then expanded to the larger issues of farm stress and mental health, and we are seeing promising, steady growth in building awareness and getting farmers and ranchers the training and tools they need through our Farm State of Mind campaign. No one enjoys talking about these topics, but lives depend on our willingness to tackle these issues head on.

The stigma around mental health is beginning to break, but it’s not gone.

Farm Bureau recently conducted a national survey on rural stress and mental health, following up on previous surveys on the topic in 2019 and 2020. We are encouraged by the progress we’re seeing, but our work together is far from done. The stigma around mental health is beginning to break, but it’s not gone, with two thirds of rural adults saying there is still some stigma attached to getting help for stress and mental health. Thankfully, more farmers and farm workers—92%—now say they would be open to talking to their friends and family about mental health solutions. That number is up 22% from 2019. With more farmers and farm employees willing to talk about mental health, we want to be sure we’re empowering all rural Americans with tools and resources for these tough but important conversations.

Farm State of Mind continues to be a leading resource for training and local information to help you or a friend or family member get critical support. We also put the spotlight on mental health and rural stress during our 2022 American Farm Bureau Convention. Our national staff regularly coordinates with state staff across the country on our Farm State of Mind efforts, and they hosted a special two-hour QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer approach) training session in addition to a workshop panel discussion on the topic.

At the QPR training, attendees learned from certified instructors, with medical and counseling training, how to identify signs of mental stress and suicide risk as well as how to start the conversation with friends and family exhibiting signs of stress. A workshop, “Mobilizing the Conversation Around Mental Health,” featured representatives from four state Farm Bureaus who shared personal stories of how individuals and local communities are addressing rural stress. As Ty Higgins of Ohio Farm Bureau noted, “Stigma is like a brick wall. Every time we talk about mental health, we knock down that wall one brick at a time.”

Mental health also took center stage as the topic for the Final Four round of the YF&R Discussion Meet at our Cultivation Center on the trade show floor, with contestants talking about what we can all to do help address stress and mental health issues in our communities.

Mental health isn’t unique to the young or old, rural or urban. It affects all of us at different seasons of life. But there is no shortage of people who care and want to help. We can keep knocking down walls and building stronger, healthier communities when everyone comes to the table to lift up our friends, neighbors and family.

Zippy Duvall
President
twitter.com/@ZippyDuvall

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

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