Stress, depression and suicide are on the mind of agricultural communities

Paul Hunter Zaid
Through sharing his feelings Duvall has been able to heal from the loss of his wife.

Farmers often struggle to seek help for themselves. Many were taught to be independent and to grin and bear it when tough times come around.

It’s important to not let one’s pride stand in the way of getting what one may need.

Approaching someone – be it a spouse, parent, relative or friend who needs help – can be just as challenging. 

Farming is a stressful occupation. Often, you live where you work. Your co-workers may be your spouse and/or other family members. While you get to be your own boss, you feel responsible for a lot and can control very little. 

Financial problems, market uncertainties, farm transfer issues, production challenges, marital difficulties and social pressures can be real sources of stress – even crisis for farmers and farm family members.

In early October, American Farm Bureau Federation President, Zippy Duvall of Georgia addressed mental health in rural America on the podcast Farmside Chat (a podcast is a series of dialogue that can be listened to on a personal device).

“Mental health is something that we have kinda blocked, shielded ourselves from. Farmers are tough, they don’t wanna admit they are having problems, and there is a stigma that goes along with it that it makes it very difficult for a farmer to admit that he is having difficulty,” said Duvall.

Duvall went on to say, “This is about having an honest conversation.”

Duvall added that he lost his wife in early 2020 to cancer. Following her death he bottled up his feelings to be strong for his family.

Upon returning to work Duvall was interviewed by a journalist who discussed mental health and Duvall started to open up about his feelings.

“It was almost like relieving a valve on a pressure cooker,” said Duvall.

Duvall learned that day how powerful it was to share your feelings and talk through the problems that you have. Duvall added that discussing one’s feelings is like trying to cure a problem on the farm.

More importantly Duvall stated that he would never have discussed his feelings with a professional or his preacher. Through sharing his feelings Duvall has been able to heal from the loss of his wife.

As the podcast continued Duvall introduced California farmer, Tara Beaver-Coronado who had no intentions of being a farmer, but after returning to the family farm for a visit in 2015, she realized that farming was her calling.

With the encouragement of her father she decided to open a vineyard on the family farm in 2018.  

Beaver-Coronado shared her own personal mental health struggles and explained how she turned to the Internet to share and work through her stress and anxiety.

“It’s very easy to share and work through one’s stress through online forums while being anonymous,” added Beaver-Coronado.

Duvall went on to address the thought and process of having to acknowledge and admit that he shared his weakness that he couldn’t solve on his own.

“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” added Duvall. 

How did he overcome that fear and anxiety?

From the responses he received from strangers saying that sharing his personal story helped them get through their very own stress.

“Farmers and ranchers will drop everything they are doing to help another, but they don’t want to ask for help,” added Beaver-Coronado.

One has to realize that your friends and family will drop everything to help you when needed, she added.

Are you needing someone to talk to?

Realize that your best solution is to go to someone you love and trust.

Afraid you will be a burden to them?

Turn it around and ask yourself, “would you say that to them if they came to you for help?”

If you can’t handle speaking to a loved one there are many resources where you can reach out and remain anonymous.

As any farmer or rancher can tell you, farm life can be demanding and stressful. It’s reaching a critical stage with coronavirus impacts on top of trade wars, natural disasters, depressed commodity prices, labor shortages and other factors.

Given these ongoing challenges, it’s no surprise that more farmers and farm families are experiencing stress and mental health issues.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health challenge, you are not alone. A healthy farm or ranch is nothing without a healthy you.

Mobile crisis services numbers to call in southwest Minnesota 

• For Brown County: 1-877-399-3040

• For Lyon County: 1-800-658-2429

• For Redwood and Yellow Medicine counties: 1-800-658-2429

• For Renville County: 1-800-432-8781

• Watonwan County: 1-877-399-3040 Crisis text line Text MN to 741741.

The Crisis Text Line provides free crisis support 24/7 for any crisis.

Mental health and suicide prevention resources

• NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. 

• STATE MOBILE CRISIS SERVICES: Every county in Minnesota provides Mobile Crisis Services for both children and adults who may be experiencing suicidal feelings or a mental health crisis. Services are available in each county 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Crisis teams are available for phone support and face-to-face crisis help. 

– Image courtesy of the American Farm Bureau Federation Web site