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How the pandemic raised awareness of mental health on the farm

gustavofrazao/ThinkstockPhotos Mental Health clouds
Emphasis on employee well-being starts with supportive communication: “How’s your life?”

The COVID-19 pandemic added immeasurable weight on everyone’s mental health. When we surveyed agricultural employees in 2020, nearly 60% said the pandemic had a negative influence on their mental health.

As we hopefully emerge on the other side of the pandemic, it’s difficult to shake the trauma and lasting impacts of the situation. However, we expect the increased spotlight on employee well-being in the workplace, including mental health, to stick around.

A look at the numbers

An estimated one in five adults experience mental illness according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion in lost earnings per year. The typical employee spends a third of their day at work. No matter if you’re a small farm or a large corporation, employee mental health will affect your organization.

Mental health issues don’t just stay at home, as they follow the employee to the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to support employees and create a healthy working environment. Unfortunately, half of ag employees said their employer did nothing to address mental wellness during the pandemic.

Do you want to improve mental health support at your farm operation? A dialogue about mental health is a starting point. This builds open communication and support for all employees.

This initiative is not only for those struggling with a mental illness, but for those who are supporting them as well.

“How’s your life?”

Supportive communication is a simple first step with employees. The situation now, more than ever, blurs the line between home life and work life, increasing the strain on work/life balance.

As a leader or supervisor, reach out to all employees at least once per week for a “How’s Your Life?” check-in that focuses on more than just work. Restate your commitment to their entire well-being, and your availability to discuss concerns.

Also, if available, share any resources your business offers like Employee Assistance Programs, Paid Time Off, etc. Be patient; some employees are still not comfortable talking about mental health.

Benefit and assistance programs must be communicated regularly to ALL employees, not just those who directly ask for help.

For more insight, check out the employer resource library at or email [email protected].
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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