Concerns about mental health have been escalating in farm country as the five-year down cycle drags on, and now an effort is being made to quantify the toll that the stress is taking on farm families.
A survey is about to land in some farmers' and ranchers' mailboxes across several states, and a group of Extension professionals is strongly encouraging recipients to fill it out and send it back in.
The questionnaire is being sent to farmers and ranchers chosen at random by the Rural Family Support Network, a team of Extension professionals at four universities.
Set against a backdrop of falling commodity prices, farm profitability and land values, the survey was developed to gauge farmers' and ranchers' health and wellness. The results will help guide decisions regarding what resources might be helpful to farmers, ranchers and their families, says Charlotte Shoup Olsen, a professor at Kansas State University.
"The more people who participate, the more accurate a picture we will have when it comes to prioritizing programs and services that can be made available in our communities," says Olsen, a family systems specialist with K-State Research and Extension.
The survey is voluntary and anonymous — participants are told not to include their name when they return it — and will take 15-20 minutes to complete. It is being sent to 400 families in each of the four participating states: Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and South Dakota.
Some of the questions are personal, Olsen says, such as questions on religious status, whether an individual has an off-farm job, farm cash net income or loss and others, but the study's authors are not looking for any individual's situation. Rather, they are concerned with general trends in health and wellness.
The Rural Family Support Network, led by Extension specialist Andrea Bjornestad of South Dakota State University, is made up of Extension professionals from SDSU, Michigan State University, Kansas State University and the University of Missouri. More information is available by contacting Bjornestad at [email protected] or 605-688-5125.
Source: Kansas State University News Service