There’s so much to love about farm life. For many, it’s hard to imagine living any other way. But farming also comes with a unique set of stressors and during hard times, it’s not uncommon to feel alone and anxious.
Today’s farmers are faced with trade wars, natural disasters, changing weather patterns, declining commodity prices, labor shortages and now the impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers aren’t the only ones negatively impacted. Our partners in the agriculture industry, from
seed dealers to ag lenders, and our neighbors in our rural communities can also find themselves dealing with stress. No one is immune.
Research from the American Farm Bureau Federation shows that most farmers say financial issues,
farm or business problems, and fear of losing the farm greatly impacts their mental health.
At Indiana Farm Bureau, we’re focused on supporting the livelihood and wellbeing of each and every member of the state’s agriculture industry. This includes connecting our members with resources to help them deal with stress and anxiety and
advice for helping colleagues, neighbors, friends or family do the same. We are stronger together.
Warning Signs of Stress
Stress can sneak up slowly and build over time, making it harder to see its impact. Be aware of the warning signs of stress so that you can spot them in yourself and your loved ones.
According to NY FarmNet, the main warning signs of stress in farmers are:
- Change in routines: Farmers or members of the farm family may stop attending regular meetings or religious activities, drop out of other groups, or fail to stop at the local coffee shop or feed mill.
- Decline in the care of domestic animals: Livestock or pets may not be cared for in the usual way.
- Increase in illness: Farmers or farm family members may experience more upper respiratory illnesses (cold, flu) or other chronic conditions (aches, pains, persistent cough, migraines).
- Increase in farm accidents: The risk of farm accidents increases with fatigue or loss of ability to concentrate. Children may be at risk if there isn’t alternative child care.
- Decline in appearance of farmstead: The farm family no longer takes pride in the way farm buildings and grounds appear.
- Signs of stress in children: Farm children may act out, show a decline in academic performance, or be increasingly absent from school. They also may show signs of physical abuse or neglect, or become depressed.
- Decreased interest: Farmers or farm families may be less willing to commit to future activities, sign up for gatherings, or show interest in community events.
Mental Health Resources
When your livelihood is in many ways dependent on factors outside of your control, short-term stress can easily turn into chronic stress. Chronic stress takes a serious toll on a person’s overall health and wellness. Below are several nationally-recognized resources to help you manage the many risks to your mental health.
AFBF Farm Stress Training Available On-Demand
Recognizing the high levels of stress affecting America’s farmers and ranchers, Farm Credit, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union partnered to create a rural resilience training. The training provides value to anyone who is under stress and is designed for individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers, providing the skills to:
- Understand the sources of stress,
- Identify effective communication strategies,
- Reduce stigma related to mental health; and
- Learn the warning signs of stress and suicide.
Any Farm Bureau member may register for the free online training here.
Michigan State University Extension Resilient Minds Resources
If you’re concerned about yourself, a family member, a friend or a neighbor, MSU Extension has resources that can help. Below is a list of trusted, evidence-based education and expertise to create resilient farms and resilient minds.
Learn more about the many resources available from Michigan State University Extension here.
Farm Aid’s Collection of Farm Crisis Resources
Farm Aid’s focus is assisting farmers through a crisis or disaster – big or small. They’ve compiled many resources to help a farmer through the toughest of times, including a guide to farm disaster assistance, access to legal assistance during tough times and support for socially disadvantaged or disabled farmers and minority farmers. Learn more and check out these resources on the Farm Aid website.
Rural Health Information Hub Resources
The Rural Health Information Hub released a video that looks at the stressors farmers face, including difficult economic conditions and extreme weather. Experts discuss warning signs of suicide and how communities can help farmers and their families address mental health concerns. Watch the video now.
Need help or know someone who does?
Consider turning to a friend, clergy or medical provider immediately. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, have suicidal thoughts, or simply need to talk to someone, please contact one of the following organizations:
Contact Farm Aid: If you need to talk to someone directly, Farm Aid is available to listen and also can direct you to resources to help with the root cause of stress on your farm or with your ag business. Farm Aid works with organizations around the country staffed with farm advocates, counselors and hotline operators who can give you help in your time of greatest need.
- Call 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243).
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor. For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate emergency assistance by dialing 9-1-1.
If you’re concerned about someone you love, MSU Extension recommends that you take time to:
- Practice active listening.
- Show empathy rather than sympathy.
- Be prepared to deal with conflict.
- Recommend resources.
Learn more here.
Below is a list of industry websites that can offer additional information:
If you are currently being affected by COVID-19 and are looking for resources to help, please visit INFB’s COVID-19 Resources page.