I’ve touched on this topic of rural stress and mental health in the past, but I’d like to reiterate that there are resources available for struggling farmers. Any farmer may face multiple stressors at any given time – fluctuating commodity crop prices, isolation, poor crop growing conditions, lower access to health services – and currently, many farmers are feeling the burden of several or all of these stressors at once.
University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are working to address stress and mental health of rural Minnesota residents. There is a rise in mental health issues like depression and anxiety in farmers in Minnesota; these mental health issues can manifest as loss of interest in friends and family, substance abuse, as well as farmer suicides.
With that in mind I want to encourage you, whoever you are, to talk to someone and ask for help if you need it. If you or someone you know needs help, please seek it. There are numerous local resources for anything you might be struggling with. There are resources that can offer anything from financial counseling, to suicide prevention, to spiritual guidance. Please talk to someone. I know farmers are often independent and extremely self-reliant. Please do not allow your pride and independence prevent you from getting the help you need.
Admitting to yourself that you need help and taking actions to get it is challenging. Approaching someone you care about who needs help is difficult, as well. They may not want help and you may not be sure how to tell if they truly need it. Common warning signs which may signal that a farmer needs support include: isolating themselves, using sentiments of hopelessness or giving up, abruptly selling livestock/land, not paying regularly paid bills, or anything that might be out of character for that individual.
If you see these indicators, please say something. Here is a list of resources including phone numbers and websites compiled by the University of Minnesota Extension Rural Stress Task Force and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture specifically for farmers and rural community members. I am also always willing to lend a listening ear or point you in the direction of the right resource. You can reach me at 507-332-6165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help for stress, anxiety, depression, anger, or feeling “stuck”:
Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline
833-600-2670 x 1
Ted Matthews, Rural Mental Health Counselor
www.centerofagriculture.org (search for “mental health”)
Mental Health and Family Services Line
Mental Health Minnesota
University of Minnesota Extension’s “Coping with rural stress” website
Financial counseling and legal help
Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG)
Minnesota Farm Advocates
218-346-4866 or 1-800-967-2474
Minnesota Rural Finance Authority
Minnesota State Farm Business Management Education
218-894-5163 or 507-389-7263
University of Minnesota Extension free, confidential financial counseling for farmers