Melissa Wheeler, Farm Bureau

The North Bend Eagle


Farmers' mental health needs to be talked about

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 3/24/21

As we note Agricultural Week, we look at farmers as the providers of the food and fuel that keep our nation going.

But we must also look at the person who is that farmer. A human being making their living from the earth, what many of us feel is the best profession there is, but also a person who has to deal with a lot of uncertainties. The weather, commodity prices, trade wars, extreme weather and now a pandemic.

Many of the factors involved in farming are out of the control of the farmer.

“Good health, including mental health, is a key factor that contributes to one’s ability to keep farming,” says an AgriSafe publication.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines 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.”

During the farm crisis of the 1980s, the suicide rate among farmers increased. A 2020 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report article, “Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation — National Violent Death Reporting System,” reports a male suicide rate of 43.2 per 100,000 among farmers and ranchers in 2016, compared to 27.4 per 100,000 among male working aged adults across all occupations.

What are some of the signs of a person experiencing poor mental health? Persistent worry and fear, apprehension and uneasiness, avoidance of others, feeling sad, lack of interest or pleasure in activities, significant weight change or changes in appetite, problems sleeping, slow or fidgety body movements, low energy, difficulty concentrating, frequent thoughts of death or suicide are some listed in the AgriSafe paper. Farmers or their family members are given two questions to answer about the past two weeks: Have you been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless? Have you often had little interest or pleasure in doing things?

If a person answers either of these questions positively, they are encouraged to seek help. And where is help available in our area?
Google “Where to find mental health help in Dodge County, Nebraska” for a list of more than a dozen counselors, therapist, agencies who specialize in mental health evaluation and treatment.

In a time of crisis, there is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Don’t think it is not a possibility for your family. As was shown this week, a successful doctor with a successful wife, felt suicide was the only options for him. We don’t know all the information, but we need to be aware when our loved ones are having mental health crisis.


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