The National Farm Medicine Center reports that suicide rates for male farmers are 50% higher they were in the farm crisis of the 1980’s. In 1982 the farmer suicide rate topped out at 58 per 100,000 agriculturalists. In recent years that number is up to 90. Ty Higgins, Farm Broadcaster with Ohio Ag Net, recalls the farm crisis of the 80’s.
“When I was eight years old, my dairy farm went through the crisis of the mid 1980’s. Interest rates were sky-high, and commodity prices were way low and my family had to sell out. We had to sell our 100 head of dairy cattle, our combine, and our International 1086. I stood there as an eight year old – between my dad and my grandpa – sobbing, watching everything they had worked so hard for being ripped away from them for circumstances beyond their control,” recounted Higgins.
While you may not think about turning to Extension for mental health resources, think again.
Enter Jami Dellifield, the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator with Ohio State University Extension in Hardin County. She has co-authored the first 4-H project book in mental health (Your Thoughts Matter: Mental Health and Youth), a co-fellow for behavioral health with the e extension Foundation. Dellifield is also on a national workgroup for the opioid crisis through Cooperative Extension and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Dellifield is also trained to teach mental health first aid.
Dellifield cites long hours of unaccompanied farm work as a risk factor.
“One of the things that we are noticing is that because farming is a family event, and an isolated event. You’re alone a lot of times, in a tractor, with your thoughts. You have a lot of time to think,” she said.
Sometimes that’s healthy, and sometimes if you’re already stressed, anxious, and nervous about what’s happening it can sometimes lead you down a not so good road,” said Dellifield.
Another reason for an increased risk of mental illness is letting down a family legacy.
“Farming is who you are. It is not just a profession, it’s an identity. It’s the identity of the person currently farming, their children and grandchildren, and also their ancestors. So there is a definite sense of ‘I’m letting my entire life down,’” explained Dellifield.
Dellifield made sure to note that obviously everyone has a bad day. But, if loved ones notice signs or symptoms of a mental illness for two or more weeks, professional services may be required.
Resources from someone struggling from a mental illness:
- Family Doctor
- Managing Farm Stress from Michigan State University Extension
- We Care | wecarepeople.com
- The local Hopeline: 1-800-567-HOPE (4673)
- Texting 741741
- Calling the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or online chat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
In an emergency situation, you should always call 9-1-1 for an immediate response.