Farm Credit, Farm Bureau, NFU to train for interactions with stressed farmers
Citing increased stress and farmer suicide due to the poor rural economy, the Farm Credit Council, the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union announced today they will work together on a program to train individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers to recognize signs of stress and offer help.
Farm Credit will pay for the online and in-person training, which will be offered to Farm Credit loan officers and to others by Farm Bureau and NFU.
“Things have been really tough for farmers for several years now, and it’s taking a significant toll on their mental well-being,” NFU President Roger Johnson said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “But between stigma, a lack of mental health care in rural communities and poor broadband access, there are so many barriers to getting help. By training trusted neighbors and friends to recognize and address stress, this program will bring help closer and make it more accessible when farmers really need it.”
“Based on the farm stress program Michigan State University Extension developed for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, this combination of online and in-person trainings is designed specifically for individuals who interact with farmers and ranchers. It provides participants the skills to understand the sources of stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, reduce stigma related to mental health concerns and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources,” Farm Credit said in a news release.
“Farm Credit loan officers are on farms working with producers every day, and they see firsthand how this difficult farm economy is causing emotional stress for farmers and their families,” said Farm Credit Council CEO Todd Van Hoose. “We are very excited to partner with Farm Bureau and Farmers Union to make this training available throughout our rural communities.”
“Many of us think of farms as idyllic,” said Jeff Dwyer, director of MSU Extension. “And what is portrayed is ideal, but what is not often shown is how hard farming is on both the body and the mind.”
Research also shows that while farmers experience higher levels of psychological distress and depression than the general population, they are less likely to seek help for mental health issues. Even for those who do seek help, resources may not be readily available, as 60% of rural Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages.
At the news conference, Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., a physician, said that farmers should be taught to notice their neighbors’ problems, ask if they are sleeping properly and look for signs of mental illness.
If people are talking about death, updating their wills, using drugs or opioids or taking antidepressants and mixing them with alcohol or drugs, those can all be signs that people are thinking about suicide, Marshall said.
–The Hagstrom Report