October 24, 2023
At a Glance
- Georgia has a crisis and access hotline, which is 988.
The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center at Mercer University in 2022 conducted a survey that reconfirmed what we know: Farmers and rural areas face great mental health challenges.
The Mercer study included 1,651 respondents, and 96% of farmers said they experienced moderate to high levels of stress. Half of the respondents reported feeling sad or depressed, and 39% felt hopeless.
Those are sobering statistics. But this one is frightening: Almost a third of the farmers surveyed said they think of dying by suicide at least once a month, and 42% thought about dying by suicide at least once in the last year.
For first-generation farmers the data was even starker, about 60% had suicidal thoughts in the past year and 9% think about suicide daily.
During the annual Sunbelt Ag Expo in October, leaders from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and the University of Georgia Extension held Georgia’s first mental health “listening forum,” as they called it.
The forum included people from farm and faith communities. The leaders also held a press conference to bring awareness to mental health and to double down on improving access to anyone who needs help, along with putting some substantial money to help things along.
Georgia has a crisis and access hotline, which is 988. DBHDD, with state and federal support, has invested nearly $56 million in the system. Additional counselors have been hired to handle crisis calls, and mobile crisis response teams have been expanded statewide.
The alarming revelations the Mercer study revealed aren’t exclusive to Georgia. Rural areas across the South, across the country, confront similar problems with mental health awareness and responsiveness.
Mental health and suicide are topics many of us prefer to let slide by or sit still on rather than talk about; keep it out of the kitchen, so to speak. But I think the conversation and the blemish of the stigma is fading. The more something is discussed, the less awkward it becomes.
If you need help, it won’t hurt to find some. And if you know someone who needs some help, it won’t hurt to help the person find some help.
Matt Berry is rancher and farmer in South Georgia. He spoke during the mental health event at the Expo, and he said it best:
“One of the biggest tools we have is amongst ourselves. Reach out to your neighbor, talk to your neighbor. You know who they are. You can tell when they're out of sorts. And one thing that is for sure, I can guarantee it because I live it every day. If you're not, all right, then he isn’t either or she isn’t either. Reach out to your neighbor, let's talk about it amongst ourselves, and let's come to the table together over it.”
Read more about:Mental Health
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