August 26, 2019
Within a 24-hour day, a farmer may spend seven of those hours sleeping, perhaps three hours interacting with family at breakfast, lunch or dinner, and a couple more hours watching a kid’s sporting event in the evening. That leaves 12 hours to think about the troubles bearing down on his or her operation, often while alone.
Their mind circles around topics such as floods, crop conditions, trade wars and commodity prices. All of these accumulate into financial stressors that are affecting farmers' mental health.
A poll from the American Farm Bureau Federation showed 91% of farmers agree that financial concerns are weighing on their mental state. For many, 87%, it is the fear of losing the farm.
Overall, 48% reported more stress this year than last year. However, the number climbs to 57% for younger farmers, ages 35 to 44.
Continuing the conversation
A.J. Hohmann understands the pressures put on farmers. As Bayer U.S. marketing manager for Acceleron, he works with farmers across the country. “Farmers don’t like to admit when they are having problems, let alone share them with others,” he says.
Hohmann grew up in a small bedroom community where when faced with adversity, he was told “to be tough and rub dirt on it.”
“But mental health is not something we just suck up,” he explains. “It is a serious issue our industry is facing today. Times are tougher than they have been in a while in agriculture. Our farmers and ranchers may need help overcoming mental stressors. There is no shame in that.”
The conversation around mental health in the heartland started during Mental Health Month in May. But Hohmann says the issue should be discussed year-round. “We need to provide opportunities for farmers and ranchers to talk about how they are doing on a regular basis,” he says.
So, the company started a Twitter and Facebook campaign — #FarmStateOfMind — in hopes of opening the dialog with farmers and ranchers around the issue of mental health.
“It is an open forum where folks can tell their story, share their experiences and realize there are those going through the same issues. They are right there with you. You are not alone,” Hohmann says. He encourages individuals to use this social media platform and offer support.
Help for the hurting
Already farmers are stepping up by providing reminders about taking a step back from stress.
And others, even outside of agriculture, are offering encouragement.
Show love for our Farmers@acceleron: If you know a fellow farmer who’s struggling with the stresses of #plant19, don’t be afraid to reach out. Just asking how they’re doing can be huge relief. Support your neighbors on #AgTwitter and join the conversation with #FarmStateOfMind.— PollyannaD60 (@D60Pollyanna) August 11, 2019
In July, as part of the initiative, Acceleron created a website connecting the farming community with the resources and relief they may need. This is especially beneficial for those who aren’t comfortable speaking to a loved one about their mental health.
Still, Hohmann encourages farmers and ranchers to not be weighed down by fear. Reach out to family members, clergy or even random strangers in a coffee shop to talk, he says. “Just talk to someone. Get it off your chest.”
The more individuals talk about stress, the more those struggling will know they are not alone. With social media and the website, Hohmann hopes it can help erase the stigma surrounding mental health and cultivate a conversation of understanding and empathy.
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