In our home there’s a gallery-style arrangement of photos from our wedding. There’s photos of me with my bridesmaids, a photo of my dad dancing with my late grandmother, a photo of my husband and I with all of his AGR brothers who made the cross-country trip, and there’s a huge photo of everybody that was there that day. All 401 of us. If you look closely at the photo and you know a little bit of history, in addition to joy, you can see depression, pain and silent suffering. You see, in that photo is a local farmer who committed suicide less than a week later. The photo that we associate with all the joy of our wedding day is also one that represents the stigma around depression in farm country.
Right now an insurmountable cloud of sadness has engrossed our beloved industry. Milk prices are making it hard for many families just to make ends meet. It seems there’s never enough money to pay bills and I get the stress that comes with making sure there’s enough money in the business checking account to make payroll. (We’ve been there plenty of times ourselves.) Like most producers, you’ve likely wrapped your identity into being a dairy farmer from the time you set eyes on a cow. Dairy farming is your passion.
Hear me say this: you are more than the cows you milk. You are a daughter, son, wife, husband, mother, father and friend. And by the way, your livelihood is not worth your life.
According to the Journal for Rural Health, farmers are more likely to commit suicide than any other profession. Since January 1, 2018 there have been three dairy producers to commit suicide in New York State alone. Three families lost their loved ones and all of this, because there is a stigma associated with mental health in farm country. Because of the stigma that farmers should be tougher than showing their emotions and more resilient than succumbing to tears, men and women across the country are choosing to end their lives rather than seek help.
YOU ARE NOT INVINCIBLE, AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE
There are resources available to help you overcome whatever mental, personal or financial challenge you might be facing right now. Selling your farm is not quitting, suicide is.
Farmer Friendly Phone Lines
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: The nonprofit suicide prevention hotline is available in all states by calling 1-800-273-8255. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The Lifeline is committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals.
California: Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255.
Idaho: Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-208-398-4357.
Iowa: Iowa Concern, 1-800-447-1985
Maine: Maine 24-hour Crisis Hotline, 1-888-568-1112.
Minnesota: Farm & Rural Helpline, 1-833-600-2670.
Nebraska: Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, 1-800-464-0258
New York State: New York Farm Net, 1-800-547-3276.
Pennsylvania: Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255.
South Dakota: South Dakota Rural Helpline, 1-800-664-1349.
Texas: Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-8255.
Vermont: Farm First, 1-877-493-6216.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Farm Center Hotline 1-800-942-2474.
Anna-Lisa is never short of an opinion. The Barn Buzz blog is where we house those.
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