Written by Michelle Miller, The Farm Babe
July 17, 2023
You may be familiar with the fact that commercial airlines take safety very seriously. As you prepare for takeoff, the flight attendants begin their final walkthrough and safety briefing: Watch the monitors, know about oxygen masks, and put yours on before your children, and so on.
Do we do the same safety concerns on farms? Even in remote areas far from bustling cities and large airports, there is still a worrying number of farmers and ranchers who prioritize the well-being of others before taking care of themselves. Their "oxygen mask" is often the last to go on.
Disturbing statistics from the past fifteen years reveal that those within the agriculture community rank among the top five industry groups in terms of suicide rates. The mental health crisis in the agriculture community has remained hidden for too long, making it crucial to understand how to deal with it.
Efforts to educate people about mental health symptoms, tackle stigmas, and provide resources have led to the emergence of numerous initiatives aimed at addressing this crisis.
Feeling overwhelmed? Dial 988 anywhere in the U.S. to speak with a counselor anytime.
When delving into this mental health crisis, it is vital to comprehend the culture of the affected community.
First and foremost, farmers and ranchers are human beings 1,vho often carry the weight of the world on their shoulders-and in many ways, they truly do. The global agriculture industry faces daunting environmental obstacles, significant economic challenges, growing food insecurity, and intense public scrutiny.
These pressures add to the already high stress and demanding nature of the work environment.
Recognizing the unique challenges faced by this population is essential to ensure that initiatives and campaigns are effective, and mental health professionals can provide high-quality care.
Who's there to help?
Although more resources are becoming available at local and federal levels, awareness and access to these resources remain significant barriers.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 81% of rural counties in the U.S. lack psychiatric nurse practitioners, and approximately 65% of counties lack practicing psychiatrists for mental health treatments.
This highlights the importance of training healthcare professionals like primary care physicians and emergency room teams be more mindful of their patients' mental health.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made telehealth resources more accessible, nearly 14.5 million people still lack the broadband service required to use it. This presents a major obstacle for farmers who need access to these vital services.
Keeping it under wraps
Another contributing factor to the mental health crisis is the stigma surrounding seeking help. In rural cultures, there is often a tendency to suppress discussions about mental health, perpetuating the silence and hindering progress in addressing the issue.
What farmers and ranchers are at risk? These individuals and their families can be identified by their passion, drive, and strong work ethic. However their efforts often go unnoticed along with the struggles they may be having.
The suicide rate among farmers is one and a half times higher than that of the general population-think hard about that fact-a distressing statistic that alters lives.
Raising awareness of this crisis and understanding its underlying factors will lead to actions that can save lives.
It's not just you
It's okay to reach out! Everyone has their ups and downs, and if you're struggling, please know you are not alone and the struggle is way more ommon than you think.
For more info, the Rural Health Information Hub has a very thorough list of resources of help: ruralhealthinfo.org/
And do not hesitate to dial 988. Ever.