ACROSS THE EDITOR’S DESK®
OUR TWOPART SERIES ON MENTAL HEALTH BEGINS THIS ISSUE.
Reading about farmer suicides is difficult. Even talking about it one-on-one is awkward. Don’t let that stop you. Every farmer matters, and any farmer who may be struggling mentally to cope with hardships in life or on the farm deserves your outstretched hand.
Times today are hard – the statistics are right in front of you. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 90 out of every 100,000 workers in the farming, fishing, and forestry industries are dying by suicide at six times the national average.
The alarm has been sounded.
According to the banking industry, the current farm downturn is not nearly as critical financially as in the 1980s. That’s not true for mental health experts. They report that suicides in these industries are 50% higher than during the farm crisis of the 1980s.
How do you know there’s trouble? Take time to stop, listen, and love. According to Jami Dellifield with Ohio State University Extension, there are keys to watch (read Lisa Foust Prater’s full story,
“Go Ahead, Reach Out,” on page 60):
• Watch for changes in the person’s ability to live, laugh, and love. • Watch to see if the person shows anger, lethargy, sadness, or body aches.
• Watch to see if the person is finding excuses not to do things that used to be a very integral part of life and is shutting off from friends.
Because farmers’ careers and lives are so intertwined, it’s hard for them not to be overwhelmed by failures. There are ways you can help, though. Ask them if they need help and, if so, get them help. Talk to them. Most of all, Dellifield says, show them love and compassion. Act the same way you would in any physical emergency.
“If someone was having a heart attack, you would take the person to the hospital and get help,” she says. Mental health alerts or suicidal thoughts deserve the same urgent care.
Realize, however, that mental illness does not have to last forever. “This can be short term,” Dellifield says. “There are seasons in farmers’ lives that are more stressful and more intense than others. With proper treatment, things can get better.”
Here’s to things getting better.
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