May is known as Mental Health Awareness Month for those who may not know.
Recognizing our rural areas, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hosted five webinars to discuss the challenges our rural community members might face.
The first of five workshops is already in the books, and it talked about Farm Stress and Suicide Prevention: Data, Challenges, and Opportunities.
Four speakers had the opportunity to share and discuss mental health surrounding rural farmers in America.
This is a brief recap of what was discussed in the first workshop.
Setting the Stage
The first of the four speakers was Cristina Miller, Research Economist, USDA Rural Development Innovation Center, discussing Farm & Ranch Stress and Suicide: Setting the Stage.
Miller stressed the importance of understanding the linkages, barriers, and contributing factors associated with farmer and rancher mental stress, access to health care, and suicide.
For example, we must understand the linkages between farmer and rancher mental stress and financial issues. Current financial issues could be increasing input prices, such as feed and fertilizer, increases in interest rates and inflation, and the ability and the laborers supply shortages and supply chain issues that were exacerbated by the public health emergency
While farmers plan for fluctuations in economic conditions, their stress levels may increase when they don’t see conditions starting to ease.
Physical Health also plays a significant role for farmers and their mental health – farmers experience high rates of arthritis, muscular-skeletal conditions, cardiovascular disease, skin cancer, hearing loss, and amputations compared to the general population.
Finally, additional barriers farmers and ranchers face when seeking access to health, care, and behavioral health care include the stigma associated with mental health services and accessing healthcare professionals who understand farming and ranching.
If you look at the following map, provided from data by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the map helps show the number of mental health professionals per 10,000 county residents.
Yellow represents less than three mental health professionals per ten thousand county residents. Dark Brown represents over twenty-four mental health professionals per ten thousand county residents.
If you look closely, there are a lot of yellow areas within SOAR’s mandated counties.
The following data come from a study on Farmer and Rancher Suicide by researchers at the University of Illinois.
The researchers examined the CDC National Violent death reporting system data on suicide from 2003-2018. Not every state reported during those years, so the data only does not reflect all farmer suicides for all farmers and ranchers during that period.
The following graph shows that suicide is increasing with age among farmers and ranchers – shown by the green bar.
This means that if you look at the age range between 18-45, the percentage of farmers committing suicide in that age range total nearly 24%.
But if you compare the age range of the farmers 65 and older, they make up for nearly 45% of suicide deaths in that age range.
Some data that is NOT shown here of farmer and rancher suicide is that the majority of those committing suicide, more than 90%, were predominantly non-Hispanic White.
95% were male, and most had either a high school education or less, and 22% of them were military veterans.
Regarding potential suicide prevention efforts, the researchers looked at what is known about the farmer and rancher’s history of suicidal thoughts or attempts.
The results that the research discovered are that there are higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts among younger farmers and ranchers than that among older farmers and ranchers.
The following graph shows life stressors and issues that farmers and ranchers have shared that contribute to their worries broken down by age range.
The following colors go with a specific worry for ranchers and farmers:
Blue: Financial Problems
Orange: Physical Health Problems
Gray: Job Problems
Yellow: Recent Criminal Legal Problems
Light Blue: Intimate Partner Problems
Green: a known argument or conflict that occurred before the event
Intimate partner problems tend to be the most significant concern and issue for farmers under the age of 45, which leads to suicidal thoughts and attempts. For older farmers and ranchers over 65, the highest leading cause of suicidal thoughts and attempts is physical and health problems.
Farm State of Mind
The campaign has two primary objectives:
One is to increase awareness and reduce stigma regarding mental health challenges for farmers and ranchers
The other one is to increase access to information, resources, and training for farmer ranch communities across the United States.
Here are some resources that you will find on the State of Mind website:
- National Resource Directory
This is a living document and directory – on here, you can click on your state and it should list a guide that is open to the public. If you see a resource that needs to be added, you are asked to email Farm State Mind to add the information.
- Rural Resilience Training
This is a FREE on-demand training for farm service providers, farm families, and for those who interact with farmers and ranchers so that they can learn about the stressors and as well as how to start the conversation on how to recognize warning signs.
You can find all research being conducted and looked over by Farm State Mind, some of which include national poll data on farmers’ mental health, opioid misuse, and more deep-scaled data from farmers themselves.
One research that the State of Mind speaker focused on results and details of what farmers in the state of Georgia are experiencing:
- They experience various stressors, varying with role, commodity, and farm characteristics.
- Nearly half of all farmers have experienced suicidal ideation at least once in the past year; 60% of first-generation farmers do.
- Overall, the majority of farmers do not have access to health-related services. Farmers without access had significantly higher stress.
- Less than one in four farmers have access to a psychologist
- About two-thirds do not have access to routine medical care or emergency medical care ○ More than half do not have health insurance
- Over a third do not have access to primary personal care or food and groceries
The following graph shows a breakdown of the data based on a farmer’s farm experience. The top section shows the farmer’s top stressors, and the bottom section shows the farmer’s top thoughts and feelings at least once per month.
If you take a deep look, first-generation farmers have the highest perceived stress score compared to the rest and also have the highest percentage for thinking about dying by suicide at least once per month.
- Educational Information
- Coping with Stress & Anxiety
Farm Aid Hotline
The Farm Aid Hotline has been around since 1985 and it is deemed as a referral and resource hotline.Their main goal is to direct farmers to the expert resources and information that can best serve their needs and their situation both locally and nationally.
The other side of their farmer services is their farmer resource network, which is their online search tool for farmers so, similar to the Farm Bureau’s National Resource Directory.
This is their free online search tool for farmers,and it is built out of resources and organizations from all over the country, farm advocates, technical assistance, business and finance coaches, counselors,and other hotlines.
Farm Aid will try to find the best resources anywhere in the country in every State.
Farmers can not only call Farm Aid to get this information, but they can use their free online tool to search by topic area depending on what their situation is and what they’re looking for.
Hotline Data 2022
In 2022, Farm Aid took 829 hotline cases nationally, an increase of 40% from 2021.
Most of these calls came from the South which totaled nearly 324, 199 in the midwest, 165 in the West, and 119 from the Northeast.
The top three states for cases were Texas (65 cases), California (52 cases), and Florida (37 cases).
The organization averaged 69 cases per month, with the majority of calls coming in between the months of August and September.
The calls range from well established farmers to first-generational farmers with often occurrences of family members calling in for their relatives who are working as farmers.
Funding was often times found to be the main reason for the farmer’s phone call.
Why is this important?
Family farmers are the backbone of our country and help out food on our tables, farmers are important and we need to do whatever we can to help support them!
You can download the PowerPoint that was used in this workshop HERE.
You can also watch a Zoom video recap of the workshop HERE, you will need a passcode, which is: R2E?3xVU
These are other webinars available through the USDA:
Veteran’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Workshop
Zoom Link HERE
Rural Mental Health Matters: Challenges, Opportunities & Resources for Communities, cohosted by the National Association of Behavioral Health and Development Disability Zoom Link HERE
LGBTQ+ Mental Health in Communities
Tuesday, June 6, 2023, 2:00 – 3:30 PM ET
- USDA NIFA – Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network
- USDA Veterans
- USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers
- USDA Service Center Locator
USDA Rural Development