National Farmer’s Day is celebrated every October, and at Foundation 2, we think it’s important to talk about rural mental health care and the increased risks farmers and ranchers face across Iowa and the nation.
Farmers have demanding and unpredictable jobs that are often compacted by weather, isolation, economic challenges and more. Rural areas often have less access to mental health care, as well, which can lead to poor mental health and an increased risk to die by suicide.
Farmers are among the most likely to die by suicide, compared with other occupations, according to a January 2020 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 450 farmers died by suicide across nine Midwestern states between 2014 and 2018.
It’s OK to not be OK
It is important to start conversations about mental health with those in your life, especially individuals who may be at a higher risk for mental illness or thoughts of suicide. Farming industry-specific warning signs of poor metal health or thoughts of suicide for farmers and ranchers can include:
- changes in routine or social activities
- decline in the care of domestic animals
- increase in injury or chronic illnesses
- increase in farm accidents
- decline in appearance of the farmstead
If you notice indications of poor mental health, it’s important to reach out to that person. Assure them that it’s OK to not be OK. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Acknowledge what they have been through. Help them think about a time in the past where they overcame challenges before, and encourage them to use similar skills to cope with their current feelings. Encourage them to seek help when needed. Foundation 2’s free, confidential crisis line is available 24/7, 365 days a year.
If someone expresses thoughts of suicide or tells you that they have a plan to die by suicide, it is important to:
Remain Calm. Talking about suicide can be scary, but it is important to remain calm. Assure them that they are valued and loved, and calmly listen to what they are feeling. Encourage them that it is OK to not be OK.
Don’t leave them alone. Remove safety risks such as firearms and other weapons. Stay with the person, and call 911 or another support like Foundation 2. We can work with you to dispatch emergency services, or connect you with follow up services.
Be a good listener. Talking about suicide does not encourage or cause someone to act on their plans. Talking about thoughts of suicide or plans they may have can help the person express their pain and work through what they are feeling.
Learn more steps you can take with Farm Journal’s AgPro.
We All Play a Part
Talking about mental health and thoughts of suicide can seem difficult, but it is important. We can help you support yourself or a loved one when a crisis occurs, including depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide and more. Contact Foundation 2’s 24/7 crisis line at 319-362-2174 to connect with a live, local crisis counselor who can provide the support that you need.
During October, Foundation 2 is partnering with Dan & Debbie’s Creamery in Ely, Iowa to promote the need for accessible mental health care for farmers. As a rural small business, they understand the need for rural mental health care and the risks that their community faces. See more of the partnership at the Dan & Debbie’s location in Ely, and our the Foundation 2 and Dan & Debbie’s social media.
Learn more about farmers’ mental health risks with Rural Health Information Hub.