US farm groups partner to help farmers manage stress

The new training programme will help individuals identify signs of chronic stress and offer effective coping skills.
calendar icon 14 December 2019
clock icon 4 minute read

In a national Morning Consult poll commissioned by AFBF in April 2019, a strong majority of farmers and farmworkers said financial issues (91 percent), farm or business problems (88 percent) and fear of losing the farm (87 percent) impact the mental health of farmers and ranchers, and nearly half of rural adults (48 percent) said they are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than they were a year ago.

“Many of us think of farms as idyllic,” said Jeff Dwyer, director of MSU Extension. “And what is portrayed is ideal, but what is not often shown is how hard farming is on both the body and the mind.”

Research also shows that while farmers experience higher levels of psychological distress and depression than the general population, they are less likely to seek help for mental health issues. Even for those who do seek help, resources may not be readily available, as 60 percent of rural Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages.

Early feedback from the FSA trainings showed strong results. Ninety-one percent of participants indicated that the training improved their ability to serve customers experiencing stress, and 80 percent said it improved their ability to manage their own stress.

“Things have been really tough for farmers for several years now, and it’s taking a significant toll on their mental well-being,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “But between stigma, a lack of mental health care in rural communities and poor broadband access, there are so many barriers to getting help. By training trusted neighbours and friends to recognise and address stress, this programme will bring help closer and make it more accessible when farmers really need it.”

In response to the many economic and environmental challenges confronting farmers, National Farmers Union compiled financial, legal and mental health resources at its online Farm Crisis Center. The organisation’s partnership with Farm Bureau and Farm Credit will build on that project by further increasing farmers’ access to the information and services they need to get through financial and personal emergencies. Resources may also be accessed on MSU Extension’s “Managing Farm Stress” website.

The training, which will begin in the coming weeks, are funded by a grant from Farm Credit.

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