There is a growing mental health epidemic among the farmers and ranchers of America. Due to environmental conditions, trade politics, reduced workforce, and financial stress we are seeing higher rates of depression and anxiety among agricultural workers.
2019 has been a trying year for cattle ranchers across the Midwest. The Bomb Cyclone ravaged the Great Plains this March in the middle of calving season, leaving ranchers to brave the freezing elements to salvage what they could of their homes and herds. Ranchers also experienced record cattle losses due to the aftermath of flooding in the days after the Bomb Cyclone hit. An estimated $1.3 billion in flood losses had been reported in the weeks following the flooding, and hundreds of thousands of heads of cattle were lost.
The hardships that cattle ranchers have endured this year seem insurmountable, and it appears to be a subject that has been grossly overlooked. Many have experienced huge losses whether it be financial loss, damage to housing, loss of cattle, physical injury, or mental and emotional distress.
The history of agriculture goes back thousands of years. What started as a way to feed your family, has now evolved into a $132 billion-dollar industry within the United States. Farming is one of the most physically demanding professions, however it is also extremely mentally taxing. Like ranchers, farmers are constantly subjected to stressors that effect their livelihoods – many of which are out of their control. For example, some stressors may include fluctuations in market prices, pest and disease among crops, policies and regulation, extreme weather conditions etc. In fact, The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 90% of crop losses are caused by extreme weather.
The Department of Agriculture expects to launch the first, federally funded program to help farmers in distress before the end of the year. And the Farm Bureau is advocating for programs that provide mental health resources to farmers and ranchers. They are fighting to increase funding for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN). FRSAN’s goal is to connect farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers to stress assistance and mental health programs.
LET’S TALK STRESS
When someone is exposed to extreme stress and loss, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and many more issues. It is normal to feel sad, nervous, or on edge occasionally, but if those feelings are persistent or span a long period of time you may be experiencing signs of depression and/or anxiety. In order to address disorders such as anxiety and depression, you must first be able to recognize the symptoms. If you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms, it could be a sign of a more serious anxiety disorder:
- Trouble Falling Asleep, Staying Asleep, or Sleeping Too Much
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Panic Attacks
- Persistent Negative Thoughts
- Loss of Interest or Pleasure
- Poor Appetite or Over-Eating
- Deterioration of Personal Appearance
- Increased Drug or Alcohol Use
Rural farming and ranching areas have some of the highest suicide rates of any geographic area in the United States. The CDC reports that suicides among farmers are 1.5 times higher than the national average. The high stress nature of the job combined with mental health stigmas often prevent farmers and ranchers from seeking help. In a study conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation, an overwhelming majority (87%) of agricultural workers agree that cost, embarrassment, and awareness would be an obstacle when seeking mental health care. The same study states that nearly one half of agricultural workers find it difficult to access a therapist or counselor in their local community.
Encounter Telehealth is located in Omaha, Nebraska. We experienced, firsthand, the tragedies that befell our neighbors in the farming and ranching communities this year. Encounter Telehealth provides mental and behavioral healthcare to people all over America.
Our services include evaluations, psychiatric medication management, staff training, and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is an extremely beneficial tool in dealing with negative thoughts or emotional distress. It helps develop new ways of thinking to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress and offers support through particularly difficult times.
Our providers are focused on administering compassionate, consistent quality care. Patients can receive care from the convenience of their computers, tablets, and even their phones. Encounter Telehealth bills your insurance directly, however private pay is offered if preferred.
If you have you are dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression, please reach out. Don’t suffer in silence and remember that in order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself.
The Nebraska Cattlemen Association was established in 1968 and has served as a support system for cattle ranchers ever since. Learn more HERE.
Rural Health Information Hub (RHI Hub) is an excellent resource for rural farmers and ranchers. Learn more HERE.
If you are experiencing an emergency mental health crisis, please call The National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
To learn more about Encounter Telehealth and the services we provide, please visit our page HERE.