Mental health continues to be a growing concern in the world, especially in the agriculture industry. Farmers, ranchers and rural community members face numerous challenges to their way of life on a daily basis that are out of their control.
In the last decade, those within the agriculture industry have dealt with flooding, lower commodity prices, trade tariffs, a global pandemic and much more, creating stress that has taken a toll. With this in mind, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation launched a campaign in May to support Mental Health Awareness Month with the intention of providing Mississippi farmers and ranchers with the resources they need to be mentally healthy.
“To be a good farmer, you’ve got to be mentally healthy,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “There’s a lot out there for us to be worried about. We’re doing everything we can do to raise the awareness of (the importance of mental health). I encourage of farmers and the families of our farmers to be aware. Let’s watch each other. Let’s take care of each other. If we see somebody going through a difficult time that needs some help, let’s reach out. And if you are experiencing poor mental health, there is nothing wrong with admitting that you really need somebody to talk to.”
MFBF President Mike McCormick agreed with Duvall, stating that it is hard for those outside of the agriculture industry to comprehend the mental strain farmers experience each day.
“Farmers are prideful in their work and their way of life,” McCormick said. “It’s hard for us to open up about our problems which can eventually lead to a poor mental health state of mind. It’s extremely important for you to reach out to someone if you are experiencing a mental health problem. Don’t suffer in silence.”
Poor mental health warning signs include:
- Excessive worrying or fear
- Feeling excessively sad or lot
- Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs”
- Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
- Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
- Thinking about suicide
- Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
“We have friends and relatives who have cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Mental illness is a disease,” U.S. Senator Roger Wicker said. “It can’t be prevented by just getting a grip on yourself. It’s something that has to be treated like everything else. My hat is off to Farm Bureau for saying, ‘Let’s get rid of the stigma. Let’s admit that good people who are otherwise healthy can have a mental disease, and let’s not hide it.’”
If you or someone you know is struggling with stress, anxiety, loneliness, depression, addiction or other mental health challenges, Farm Bureau is here to help. Visit msfb.org/mental-health for resources available to you.
“We know times are tough,” McCormick said. “Your mental health and wellness are important to us. You matter. You are not alone.”
Take a look below to see what Mississippi leadership and your fellow farmers have to say about mental health.