Farming, Stress and Depression: Sad Companions

Weather, markets, global trade and an uncertain future all are weighing heavily on today’s American farmers. ( iStock )

Farmers are, by nature, independent, optimistic, proud, resilient and strong. But the perfect storm of historically terrible weather, prolonged market weakness, global trade wars and more, is driving some farmers to the breaking point.

In a recent national poll sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), 91% of farmers surveyed said financial issues were affecting their mental health, followed closely by farm or business problems (88%) and fear of losing the farm (87%). Other factors included stress, weather, the economy, isolation and social stigma.

“The poll proves what we already knew anecdotally: rural America is hurting not just economically, but emotionally,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

The study delineated results between adults living in rural communities, and those who are specifically farmers or farm workers. Additional results of the poll, which can be viewed in greater detail here, include:

  • Farmers and farm workers said the leading barriers to seeking mental health assistance included cost of help or treatment (87%); embarrassment (70%), and awareness of mental health (65%). 
  • Among rural adults, 4 out of 5 said they would feel comfortable talking to a family member or friend about solutions for a mental health condition, but only 1 in 3 farmers/farm workers said the same.
  • Younger rural adults were more likely than older rural adults to say they are experiencing more mental health challenges than a year ago.

An Iowa State University safety publication noted that farmers under extreme stress are more likely to make poor business decisions, and be involved in farm injuries. Relationships between spouses, and between parents and children, can suffer, as can physical health.

Signs of depression include:

  1. Physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach problems, muscle cramps or clammy skin;
  2. Irritability and angry outbursts;
  3. Self-medicating with tobacco, alcohol or drugs;
  4. Lack of interest in normal activities and work;
  5. A sense of worthlessness or hopelessness.

The Iowa State document includes a quiz for farmers to assess their stress levels. For those in need of mental health assistance, the AgrAbility organization shares a number of available resources.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is part of a coalition of farm organizations that also is advocating for Congress to fully fund $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network.

 
Comments
Submitted by Harold A Maio on Mon, 06/10/2019 - 13:47

The least helpful thing we can do is continue to insist there is a stigma to seeking help. Yes, it has become overwhelmingly popular to say it, no, it does not help anyone.