Mental health and agriculture

When the leaves start to drift away from the trees and turn the vivid shades of reds, oranges and browns, we all know it’s a signal that fall is near.

For some, fall is the season of pumpkin spice lattes, hayrides and a wardrobe full of plaid outfits. For the farmers and ranchers, it’s the harvest season, where they reap the rewards of their hard work back in the spring and prepare for yet another planting season. The harvest season requires long workdays and more helpers, which means more money that the farmer may not have to give.

Farming is a stressful and challenging occupation for many reasons, such as the dependency on weather throughout the year, the dangers of working with hazardous equipment, market prices and the physical demand of the job.

The stigma of mental health and farmers also makes it difficult for farmers to discuss their emotions. Many see discussing mental health as a sign of weakness in the stereotyped strong farmer persona.

A 2012 study by the CDC found that suicide rates among farmers are at a higher rate than any other occupation in the United States with the rate being five times higher than that of the general population. Experts believe this rate could be higher due to many farmers disguising their suicides as farming accidents.

To decrease the number of suicides on farms and ranches, many states have implemented farm and rural helplines. These helplines allow farmers, their families and community partners to call with questions, connect with a counselor or financial consultant.

Public health officials have also designated information sessions on teaching farmers and ranchers the signs of mental illness, such as:

  • Sleep or appetite changes
  • Mood changes
  • Social withdraw
  • Apathy
  • Unusual behavior

If you or a family member are struggling with feelings of hopelessness, depression or anxiety, UofL Health – Peace Hospital’s Assessment and Referral Center offers no-charge assessments at 502-451-3333 or 800-451-3637.