Mental Health & Farming

May 27, 2022

Kristin Lawson, Communications Coordinator

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. You might be wondering why a seed company would discuss mental health? I’ve noticed several news headlines focusing on farmers and their mental health, so I decided to do some research…

What is mental health?

Most of us have heard of the term “mental health”, but what does it really mean? The CDC describes mental health as “an important part of overall health and well-being. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices.”

How does it affect farmers?

Several sources mentioned that the suicide rate among farmers is higher than any other group of people. Why is that? There are many variable factors that affect a farmers’ mental health and level of stress. Farming “is a business largely influenced by factors that are beyond farmers’ control”, noted Farm Aid, “weather, disease, pests, prices and interest rates, all which can come and go without warning.” Farmers are used to working long hours and may prioritize getting the job done, over their own health.

What are the warning signs?

The American Farm Bureau mentioned several warning signs that a farmer’s mental health is declining. These are signs you can watch for in your family or friends who may be struggling.

  • Decline in care of crops, animals and farm
  • Deterioration of personal appearance
  • Increasing life insurance
  • Withdrawing from social events, family and friends
  • Change in mood and or routine
  • Increase in farm accidents
  • Family shows signs of stress
  • Increase in physical complaints, difficulty sleeping
  • Increase in drug or alcohol use
  • Giving away prized possessions, calling or saying goodbye
  • Feeling trapped (no way out)
  • Making statements such as “I have nothing to live for” and “My family would be better off without me; I don’t want to be a burden”

Why is this important?

Because you are important!

Purdue University Extension has done a lot of research on coping with farm stress and mental health. They asked several farms what their most important asset was, most said livestock, equipment, land etc. Purdue believes that “the most important farm assets are farmers, farm families and farm employees” and we agree! Take care of yourself, and your family, and never be afraid to ask for help!

How can we improve our mental health?

There are many resources available to help farmers, or anyone, struggling with their mental health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed this planting season, check out some of the resources below.