October 10th is World Mental Health Day – a day to raise awareness and advocate for better mental health for all. But every year we like to pay special attention to one often overlooked group, farmers. Agriculture is a vital part of our society, yet the mental health of farmers is often left unnoticed. By connecting mental health and agriculture, we can better support the farmers who provide us with food, fuel, and clothing and work to cultivate and maintain the environment.
Why Do We Need to Be Conscious of Farmers' Mental Health?
Agriculture plays a vital role in our everyday lives, even if we may not always realize it. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear; agriculture is woven into the fabric of our existence. It provides us with essential goods and sustains countless jobs in the industry. While less than 2% of the population is in agriculture, farmer suicide rates are still 2 to 5 times higher than the national average according to multiple studies. World Mental Health Day is for raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and to encourage efforts in support of mental health. It is especially important to recognize the mental wellbeing of farmers. The work of farmers and ranchers is crucial in ensuring a stable and sustainable future for all of us. As we acknowledge World Mental Health Day, let's recognize and support the mental health of those who work tirelessly to keep our world up and running.
The Stressors Faced by Farmers and Ranchers
Farmers and ranchers face unique stressors in their profession that can significantly impact their mental health. Long hours, unpredictable weather, financial uncertainties, and the pressure to produce enough food and meet market demands are just some of the challenges they face.
A farmer's true boss is an unpredictable woman, Mother Nature. Farmers are under tremendous stress during all times of the year, especially during planting and harvesting seasons. The rush to bale hay before the next rainfall is simply a race against the clock. Even the market can be volatile. The livestock farmer that has worked all year raising, protecting, and feeding is left in the hands of a 10 to 30-second-long bidding war to know if they will make enough money to cover the expenses.
The isolation and loneliness that can come with rural living further compound these stressors. Farmers often work in the fields alone. The lack of socialization and daily communication often leads to increased loneliness.
Understanding the Stigma Around Mental Health in Rural Communities
In rural communities, there is often a stigma surrounding mental health. Farmers and ranchers may feel pressure to uphold a strong, resilient image, making it difficult for them to seek help or talk about their struggles. The demanding nature of ag jobs can contribute to this stigma, as the focus is often on physical strength and hard work. Breaking down this stigma is crucial in order to create a supportive environment where farmers and ranchers can prioritize their mental wellbeing.
Ways to Promote Good Mental Health among Farmers and Ranchers
One way to promote good mental health among farmers and ranchers is by creating a supportive community. This can involve hosting events and gatherings where farmers can connect and share their experiences, providing a safe space for them to discuss their mental health. A local café with farmers around the table or the meeting grounds of the local feed store may be their own type of therapy they need. Additionally, offering resources such as counseling services and support groups can be beneficial.
If you are struggling or know someone who is, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Farm State of Mind Directory provides information on helplines and counseling services which are searchable by state and category. The site also provides tips for coping, helping someone with mental health, and more. Farmers have the tendency to be strong-willed, it is important to be encouraging to ensure that positive mental health practices are taken seriously and practiced daily.
Support for Mental Health in Agriculture: What Can We Do?
Education and awareness play a significant role in supporting mental health in agriculture. By raising awareness about the unique stressors faced by farmers and ranchers, we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in rural communities. This includes educating the ag community about the signs of mental health challenges and how to seek help.
Ultimately, supporting mental health requires a collaborative effort involving individuals, communities, and organizations coming together to prioritize the wellbeing of those in the agriculture industry. By implementing these strategies and creating a culture of support, we can ensure a stronger and more resilient agricultural community for generations to come.