What’s the best thing one farmer can do for another? Pay attention. Notice if someone’s behavior has changed. And don’t ignore your gut if it tells you to be concerned — because the people who need help the most are often the least likely to reach out.
“The last thing we want to do is wait until a funeral or visitation to think about what we could have done,” says Adrienne DeSutter, a behavioral health consultant who is married to Woodhull, Ill., farmer Drew DeSutter.
Here’s what to look for:
- changes in a person’s typical behavior
- eating or sleeping habits that change
- decline in care of self, or farm, or livestock
- sudden weight loss or gain
- feeling trapped, hopeless or worthless
- feeling like a burden
- expressing unbearable pain
- aggression or irritability
- withdrawal or isolation from friends and family
- saying goodbye or giving away prized possessions
Here’s how to talk to them:
- Point out things you’ve noticed. (“Haven’t seen you at church/card club/coffee.”)
- Just want to see if everything’s OK.
- Make sure you’re genuine; show empathy.
- Listen to hear, don’t listen to respond.
- Validate their concerns.
- Provide resources.
- In an emergency, call 911, go to the ER or call a suicide hotline.
- In a non-emergency situation, talk to a primary care doctor, mental health center or insurance provider — it may have a teletherapy option.
- Farm Aid Farmer Resource Network; call 800-FARM-AID or 800-327-6243.
- Iowa Concern by Iowa State University Extension is open to anyone; call 800-447-1985.
- Avera Health Ministry’s farm-specific hotline; call 800-691-4336.
- Minnesota Department of Ag and Ted Matthews; call 320-266-2390.