March 21 2024 01:49 PM

There are so many resources available to support farmers when mental health challenges become reality.

I know I’ve used my blogs to encourage men and women in agriculture before. I know I have used this platform to discuss mental health. However, as we enter the busy months of planting, calving, and the much needed and welcomed warm weather, I’d like to remind everyone of ways to combat stress and more serious potential mental health happenings. As we have been told over and over again, mental health has such a stigma in the agriculture industry. Over the last several years, we’ve heard more and more about suicides and self-harm among farmers. Some have turned to liquor, other drugs, and so on and so forth. It’s time to break it, starting with you.

It’s okay to ask for help. Farmers are very “hush-hush” individuals. We keep everything inside and bottle up everything. Let it out. Find a friend, spouse, parent, grandparent, or anyone to talk through the problems you face. Keeping it in isn’t going to make it go away. Letting it out and getting another perspective may help it seem less scary and less intimidating.

Relax, reset, restart. These three “Rs” are what I tell my employees every day in the parlor. When a cow kicks the milker off or the person gets flustered, I remind them of the three “Rs” and make them reset. As in the parlor, these words apply to life. Life can get overwhelming, frustrating, and downright stressful. Even though we feel like we are on a time crunch, it’s okay to take a small step back and breathe for a minute. Take a breath, reset what you’re doing, and restart. Try to work through the problem again after walking away from it. Sometimes a simple reset can make a huge difference.

Use your resources. As more and more companies and organizations have recognized the mental health epidemic in agriculture, many have begun to share resources to assist folks during troubled times. For example, American Farm Bureau has a program called Farm State of Mind that deals directly with mental health. It is an hourlong course that can help farmers recognize warning signs. It also provides information on groups that can help, folks you can call, and so on. Again, as the recognition of this issue is becoming more prominent, there are more resources than ever before.

Ride ‘em, cowgirl. Even when it seems impossible, face each day with strength. Keep your head up and don’t ever give up. Lean on folks when you need to. Talk to people; reset and restart whenever you need to. This world is hard enough. You can do this. Ride ‘em, cowgirl and don’t back down. Stay safe out there.

Courtney Henderson

The author is a sixth-generation farmer and fifth-generation dairy producer in southwest Virginia, where she and her family own and operate a 145-head Holstein dairy. Courtney is involved in agriculture organizations throughout her community and is a graduate of Virginia Tech.