Owning and operating a farm or ranch can be stressful. Your livelihood depends on many factors that are out of your control, from the weather to commodity prices to a long list of other factors. Long-term stress and worry can take a toll on farmer health and wellness and can even lead to depression in farmers.
In short, you face a unique set of challenges, putting you at risk for mental health challenges. From baling hay to planting, farming is hard physical labor from sunup to sundown. Not only is it tough on the body physically but it can be extremely emotionally difficult, too.
When it comes to farming and mental health, it’s important to check in with yourself and those around you. Changes in a person’s mental health status don’t typically happen overnight. There are some early signs of trouble. Here are a few to look for:
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Feeling depressed
- Emotional outbursts
- Problems sleeping
- Dramatic changes in weight or appetite
- Substance abuse
- Feelings of failure
If you recognize signs of severe stress in yourself or others, it’s important to take immediate action to help positively improve the situation. Recognizing the connection between farming and depression and other mental health issues can save your life or a loved one’s.
Some small steps to start implementing include creating a community of support, checking in on fellow farmers, seeking professional help when you feel things are out of control or if you feel helpless and hopeless. While these practices may seem small, they are daily habits that can help get your mind in the right state.
If you’re concerned about someone you love, take time to:
- Create a community: Take the time to talk and connect with fellow farmers. It could be a faith-based community or just a group of folks that meet at a coffee shop to commiserate and compare notes. It’s important to listen and show empathy. Many experts suggest that listening non-judgmentally and with care and concern can be very helpful.
- Recognize the problem: Don’t avoid the problem. Give encouragement and provide resources for help. It’s important we work to remove the stigma around mental health. It’s OK to talk to someone and ask for help or ask someone to listen.
- Keep resources handy: There are lots of resources available that you can use and share with your fellow farmers.
Hard times can bring an inordinate amount of stress to you and your family.
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