With tightening margins, trade wars and unprecedented rainfall, Ohio farmer Nathan Brown admits to facing anxiety.
“The stresses and the trials and tribulations that our farmers in the state are facing right now is something we need to be focused on,” says Brown, a first-generation farmer who grows corn, soybeans and wheat and operates a cow-calf beef operation in Highland County. “Farmers work alone a lot, and they don’t spend a lot of time talking to outside people. We need to break through the stigma of mental health and get them where they feel comfortable seeking help as they would for any other illness.”
Rural America suffers from a known shortage of mental health services and likewise has a growing rate of critical mental health issues that lead to suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Brown has developed a strong inner circle of support to help him through farming’s emotional challenges. Meanwhile, he shares his story and advocates for more services that cater to the unique business lifestyles of farmers, who may view mental health concerns as an unmentionable weakness.
Rather, awareness of mental health represents one of the first steps to crisis prevention, says Steve Terrill, a mental health advocate with a farm background.
“You need to have the awareness to say, ‘This is important’; the curiosity to say, ‘I need to understand more’; and the education to understand what mental wellness is,” says Terrill, who co-founded Mindful Minds Inc., a nonprofit that works to bring mental health education to schools, businesses and communities. “The fact is, none of us have had any education on how to take care of our mental health. Think how ironic that is when we have increasing understanding of our physical health.”
See more: Mental Health Resources for Farmers
Aimed at raising mental health awareness, the nationally certified Mental Health First Aid course can supply farmers and their families with a mental wellness tool to put in their toolbox. Often called “CPR for the mind,” the eight-hour course teaches about types of mental health issues, warning signs, and when and how to seek help.
Terrill and his wife, Debbie, offer Mental Health First Aid for free through their nonprofit and are among 425 course-certified trainers in Ohio.
“Farmers are historically known to be strong and independent,” Terrill says. “It is this mindset that sets the expectation to not show or talk about anything that may appear to counter this expectation. In mental health, communication and expressing your emotions is important, which is why we encourage them to talk with a trusted person, such as their family doctor.”
Signs and Symptoms of Poor Mental Health
• Avoidance of others
• Low energy
• Problems sleeping
• Persistent worry
• Difficulty concentrating
• Changes or neglect in
• Lack of interest or
pleasure in activities
• Apprehension and
• Suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of mental distress, there are several resources available to you:
Hotlines and Helplines
Crisis/Suicide Hotline: (800) 273-8255
National Helpline: (800) 662- HELP (4357)
Text “4 Hope” to 741 741