Suicide And The Ag Community

Suicide and the Ag Community

September is suicide awareness month.

The suicide rate among folks in agriculture are alarmingly high. The suicide rate for men in farming, fishing and forestry is 90.5 per 100,000, which is the highest of any occupational group, but it is believed that it is under-reported, so it is quite possibly much higher.

The rural/farming/ranching community can be a very proud, quiet community. When challenges arise, very rarely does it do any good to keep quiet and not talk about them.

When you think of a farmer or rancher, you think, family, invested in the future, hard working, faith, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps", strength, etc. But, stress, fatigue, loss, gambling with and the volatility of weather and market, can also describe someone in agriculture and his/her situation.

You just never know the internal struggles someone is facing.

It is always so important to not judge a book by its cover and realize that anyone can be fighting an internal battle. This includes the strongest among us. With the high rate of suicide and under-reporting of it in our own communities I thought it was important to discuss this and offer some suggestions!

5 Actions Steps...

Suicide and the Ag Community
  1. Have an open conversation about suicide within the community.One resource I found said that suicide among farmers is under-reported. I would guess that one of the reasons for this is that the farming and agricultural community is proud and thus quiet about mental health issues. One resource shared this quote, "Robert Fetsch, a retired professor of human development and family studies at Colorado State University, says there are profound social reasons farmers are reluctant to seek help. "Farmers are extremely self-sufficient and independent," he says, "and tend to work around whatever they have, because they are so determined to keep moving."" Although I understand this mentality, it does us no good in this area and allows folks who are hurting to do so, on their own in private.

  2. Make a point to connect in person with those in your community. This is a subject I'm passionate about as I've seen and heard the changes in social connection within the rural community from many. In past generations, there were card parties, barn dances and various opportunities to gather together. We have lost many of those social events as our current generations have turned more and more to social media and families and friends have spread out across many miles. We need to bring our main focus from the importance of "success" in our livelihood to the importance of investing in others, resting, and engaging in self-care.

  3. Continue to Agvocate! This may seem a little off topic, but one of the articles I found (listed below) stated that "Some mental health resources already exist for farmers. But Rosmann says efforts to develop a federally funded mental health program for farmers have failed. One program called the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, which would have created a national hotline for farmers, was approved as part of the 2008 Farm Bill but never received funding. And a program Rosmann ran called Sowing the Seeds of Hope, a network of behavioral health services for farmers in seven states, had to close due to lack of money. “I think there is a perception among many people in the U.S. that agriculture is kind of a fat cow in the federal budget,” Rosmann says. “But the money that goes into the USDA doesn’t go for health prevention or health issues except through some loans..."" We need to continue to agvocate so that the misconceptions about agriculture and our community change!

  4. Stay mindful of your own mental health and that of those whom you love! We as FarmHers/RancHers, Farm/Ranch Wives, or Farmer's/Rancher's Wives are not immune to mental health concerns whether in ourselves or our spouses. We know and experience first hand the ups and downs of our agricultural lifestyle. We feel the complete melding of our daily life and our occupation and know the difficulty in separating the two, even in simply trying to take a vacation. As a Farm Wife, I feel that staying mindful of these issues is part of my role, right along with driving combine, flagging for my hubby and taking care of our girls. I would encourage you to take this on as part of your role as well and seek out information and support!

  5. Ask for help! This is the most challenging part. Asking for help can bring up feelings of fear, anxiety and worry; Fear of making a bigger deal of something than it is; Fear of offending the person with whom you are concerned; Fear of showing weakness; Fear of "airing" personal matters to the community, etc. So, start with a trusted friend and your doctor. The "risk" is worth it, for your life or the one you love! Click Here for an excellent resource to help guide you!

What do you think we can do to help and stem the tide of suicide in our agricultural communities?

Comment below and share your thoughts! Please share this post as a way to encourage those in your community!

Suicide and the Ag Community