ASSESS­ING SUI­CIDE RISKS

HERE’S WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE WOR­RIED ABOUT A FAM­ILY MEM­BER OR FRIEND WHO MAY HAVE A MEN­TAL HEALTH ILL­NESS OR BE AT RISK FOR SUI­CIDE.

Successful Farming - - HEALTH - By Jessie Scott, Dig­i­tal Con­tent Di­rec­tor

While fi­nan­cial ex­perts say that the strug­gling farm econ­omy of to­day is not a par­al­lel to the farm cri­sis of the 1980s, the sui­cide rates show there is a cause for con­cern. To­day’s sui­cide rate for farm­ers is higher than it was dur­ing the farm cri­sis. In 1982, the sui­cide rate among male farm­ers peaked at 58 sui­cides per 100,000 farm­ers, ac­cord­ing to data by the Na­tional Farm Medicine Cen­ter. The most re­cent sui­cide data avail­able for farm­ers, col­lected by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) in 2012 and re­leased in 2016, shows that sui­cide rates for work­ers in the farm­ing, fish­ing, and forestry in­dus­tries have risen to 90.5 per 100,000.

“Farm­ers are more iso­lated,” says Jami Del­li­field, an Ohio State Univer­sity Ex­ten­sion ed­u­ca­tor. The CDC re­port also points to so­cial iso­la­tion as well as the po­ten­tial for fi­nan­cial losses, bar­ri­ers to seek­ing men­tal health ser­vices, and ac­cess to lethal means as fac­tors that might con­trib­ute to sui­cide.

Ex­ten­sion to the Res­cue

While Ex­ten­sion may not be the first place you turn for men­tal health ser­vices, Del­li­field says it is a nat­u­ral fit. “We are in all 50 states, in the ma­jor­ity of coun­ties, and we work with ev­ery­one,” she ex­plains. “Our job is to help peo­ple find re­searched-based in­for­ma­tion to make their lives bet­ter.”

Del­li­field’s back­ground makes her dis­tinctly qual­i­fied for this ini­tia­tive. She has an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in psy­chol­ogy, is trained as a cer­ti­fied men­tal health first aid in­struc­tor (Men­tal­health­firstaid.org), and says she has al­ways had an in­ter­est in men­tal health aware­ness.

“I want to help peo­ple be the best they can be,” she says. “One in five Amer­i­can adults are di­ag­nosed with a men­tal ill­ness, and that doesn’t in­clude those who don’t seek help. I want peo­ple to know there is help out there, and I want Ex­ten­sion pro­fes­sion­als to lead peo­ple in the right di­rec­tion to find help in their com­mu­ni­ties.”

In con­junc­tion with the North Cen­tral Re­gional Cen­ter for Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and Com­mu­nity As­sess­ment and Ed­u­ca­tion to Pro­mote Be­hav­ioral Health Plan­ning and Eval­u­a­tion (CAPE), Ohio State Univer­sity Ex­ten­sion is bring­ing com­mu­nity ac­tion plan­ning and aware­ness about be­hav­ior health to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Other Ex­ten­sion of­fices are also work­ing to pro­vide more cour­ses and re­sources. For ex­am­ple, Michi­gan State Univer­sity Ex­ten­sion is of­fer­ing an on­line course for man­ag­ing farm stress.

How you can Help

If you’re wor­ried about a fam­ily mem­ber or friend who may have a men­tal health ill­ness or be at risk for sui­cide or harm, Del­li­field rec­om­mends fol­low­ing these three steps.

1. Track how long the symp­toms last. “If you no­tice symp­toms con­tinue for more than three to four weeks, that’s when we say it’s more than just a mood swing,” says Del­li­field. Symp­toms can in­clude sleep­ing more, anger, self-med­i­cat­ing, an in­crease in al­co­hol use, loss of ap­petite, and so­cial with­drawal.

2. Bring in other peo­ple. “Ask oth­ers, ‘Are you notic­ing this be­cause I’m con­cerned,’ ” ad­vises Del­li­field.

“One of the hard­est things is that this is not a casse­role dis­ease.” – Jami Del­li­field

3. En­cour­age in­ter­ac­tions, whether those are fam­ily gath­er­ings or at­tend­ing church.

The men­tal health first aid pro­gram rec­om­mends five steps – ALGEE – when

ad­dress­ing a loved one: A. As­sess for risk of sui­cide or harm. “Be bold and ask, ‘I no­tice you aren’t be­ing your­self lately. Have you thought about killing your­self or harm­ing your­self?’ ” ad­vises Del­li­field. “Some­times that’s enough to shock peo­ple into re­al­iz­ing they haven’t been act­ing like them­selves.” L. Lis­ten and lis­ten non­judg­men­tally. G. Give in­for­ma­tion. “There are lots of won­der­ful web­sites and books you can give to some­one,” says Del­li­field. E. En­cour­age ap­pro­pri­ate pro­fes­sional help. E. En­cour­age self-help.

Then, con­tinue to be there for your loved ones and talk about what they are go­ing through.

“One of the hard­est things is that this is not a casse­role dis­ease. You find out that some­one has been di­ag­nosed with can­cer and we rally around them,” ex­plains Del­li­field.

She has seen this hap­pen first­hand. Her hus­band is a stage-four can­cer sur­vivor, and their com­mu­nity was phe­nom­e­nal, she says, in bring­ing meals, help­ing out, and tak­ing him to doc­tor’s ap­point­ments.

“I was di­ag­nosed with an anx­i­ety dis­or­der 14 years ago, and it’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause very few peo­ple asked, ‘Did you go to the doc­tor? What did they say? Are you tak­ing your med­i­ca­tion?’ ” she shares.

“Friends and fam­ily should be en­cour­ag­ing,” she adds. Of­fer to bring your loved ones to their ap­point­ments or take them out for cof­fee.

“If it’s a fi­nan­cial worry, do some­thing that doesn’t cost money. It doesn’t cost any­thing to be a good lis­tener,” she says.

One last bit of ad­vice. Don’t tell some­one to just snap out of it.

“When you’re in it, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tun­nel,” she says.

Re­sources

There are re­sources avail­able, de­pend­ing on your need and pre­ferred method. 1. Na­tional Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Hot­line. Call 800/273-8255 or chat on the web­site at Sui­cide­pre­ven­tion­life­line.org.

2. Cri­sis Text Line. Text CON­NECT to 741741.

3. Calm Harm app. This walks you through the steps to re­set, and it helps you breathe. 4. Lo­cal health depart­ment. “Call­ing the nurses at your lo­cal health depart­ment is a great first step to any­thing you need,” says Del­li­field.

When you’re look­ing up in­for­ma­tion on­line, make sure to fo­cus on sites with .gov, .edu, or .ex­ten­sion so you know you are get­ting re­search-based in­for­ma­tion, says Del­li­field. “With­out those words, you don’t know who de­cided to put that in­for­ma­tion out, and it could be harm­ful.

“Re­mem­ber, there is hope. There are lots of in­di­vid­u­als who are liv­ing with a men­tal ill­ness,” en­cour­ages Del­li­field. “You do not have to give up. Keep fight­ing, be open, be hon­est, and ask for help if you need it.”

Jami Del­li­field is an Ohio State Univer­sity Ex­ten­sion ed­u­ca­tor.

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