When you walk into a meeting of farmers, stop by the local feed store, or visit a farming friend, there’s no shortage of topics to talk about. What’s the weather looking like? When will we get the next cutting off? Did you hear about this event, or those people’s cows, or what’s going on at that farm down the road?

What is much harder to talk about — in public or in private — is the stress that farmers deal with at a higher rate than many other professions because so many of their business factors are out of their control. When not handled appropriately, stress and fear can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns that too often result in desperation and thoughts of suicide. Farmers are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population, according to the National Rural Health Association.

Since 1949, May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. It shines a light on a topic that is easy to leave in the shadows and ignore because it is uncomfortable. But is having real discussions more uncomfortable than losing a loved one?

Over recent years, many farm organizations have sought to help solve this rural crisis and support agricultural families going through challenging situations. There are more resources available than ever before and in a variety of formats, which is valuable because it’s estimated by the National Alliance on Mental Illness that more than 25 million Americans living in rural areas are in a designated mental health professional shortage area. Online and virtual options may also be more palatable to folks who want to seek help but don’t feel comfortable visiting a professional’s office.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with stress, depression, anxiety, or another mental health challenge, seeking out resources to help can change or even save a life. Below are a few of the options available for farmers and their families.

Rural Minds: Founded in 2021 by a New York dairy farmer, the Rural Minds website contains a wealth of information and resources that are easily accessible and understandable. Find fact sheets about six major mental health concerns, a list of mental health support organizations, webinars, and much more. Learn more about Rural Minds here.

Farm State of Mind: This is the American Farm Bureau Federation’s database of mental health support organizations, research, and tips as well as tools for helping talk to loved ones about what they’re going through. Learn more about Farm State of Mind here.

Farm Aid: Among this organization’s programs to keep farmers on their farms are the 1-800-FARM-AID hotline and a resource network of organizations that can help farmers in a variety of situations. Learn more about Farm Aid here.

Farm Family Wellness Alliance: One of many services of the Farm Foundation based in Illinois is this free, anonymous, online mental health care program open to people from all states. It consists of an online community group where users can anonymously share concerns and converse with peers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Licensed mental health clinicians monitor the community to ensure safety and can refer members to a mental health professional. The program also involves access to resources and self-help materials on a variety of topics. Learn more about Farm Family Wellness Alliance here.

The Farm Family Wellness Alliance is hosting a webinar on May 21 that will discuss the program and other free counseling services. Register for the event here.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
May 20, 2024
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