May is Mental Health Awareness month and Iowans are focusing on rural populations.
Farmers in particular are at-risk for mental health challenges. They face isolation, stigma, volatile environments, and have barriers to care. Especially now, there are unique challenges: economic uncertainties of tariffs, falling commodity prices, and a wet spring.
The University of Iowa has set up the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, which looks to connect agriculture groups looking for services and mental health providers trying to help farmers.
Director for the Iowa Center for Agriculture Safety and Health Brandi Jansen says here in the Midwest, they have to overcome a culture of avoiding uncomfortable conversations and it can be difficult to overcome stigma of asking for help.
Jansen says, “If you’re an owner, operator of a farm and you’re used to managing this big, complex system, you also may feel that it’s your job to manage all your mental health and stress alone as well, without kind of taking advantage of the resources that are out there.”
Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health has a webpage (https://gpcah.public-health.uiowa.edu/mental-health/) to provide resources to farmers, agriculture workers, and their families to find help if and when they need it. That includes phone numbers to call or webinars to train businesses with.
According to a study from the University of Iowa, between 1992 and 2010, farmers had a rate of suicide 3.5 times the average.
Jansen says taking a community level approach is key, “You don’t have to be a mental health provider to make a positive difference. Improving mental health issues and certainly preventing suicide are community level challenges. And so, even if you’re interacting with someone as a friend, as a client et cetera. Recognizing that someone might be experiencing some stress, reaching out to them asking them about it, passing along a hotline number. Those are are all really beneficial things people can do.”
If you are a farmer or know one facing difficulties, there is a specific farm aid crisis hotline: 1-800-FARM-AID. Don’t hesitate to call.