Extension, Farm Bureaus offering farm stress resources
Farmers facing difficult times are encouraged to consider seeking help through mental health resources. Some of these resources are provided by local ag-related organizations while others are regional and national in scope.
According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020, farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers are ranked as an occupational group with a high risk for suicide.
“Farm families are dealing with more stress than ever and a recent study by the American Farm Bureau indicated that 46 percent of farmers say it’s difficult to access a therapist in their rural communities, and 87 percent cited the cost of treatment as an obstacle when procuring that care,” noted a recent statement from the University of Maryland Extension. “Finances, legal issues, and physical and mental well-being are all at the forefront of agricultural concerns.
…These stressors can lead to mental and emotional distress, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and even suicide.”
Extension is working with three mental health clinics on the Eastern Shore to help alleviate the issues of accessibility and availability of treatment for mental health concerns: Bodhi Counseling in North East, For All Seasons in Easton, and Corsica River Mental Health Services, serving the mid-shore region.
A total of 35 participants are able to receive 6 free counseling sessions through this program of the UMD Extension. The sessions are available in person or through teletherapy. This free therapy program runs to March of 2024.
These efforts are supported by a grant from the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“Farmers deal with ordinary stress like finances and child care, but they also have unpredictable factors like weather events and labor shortages, and these compounding stressors can have long-term impacts,” said Alex Chan, UMD Extension Mental and Behavioral Health Specialist. “Our partners in therapy have been trained in relevant issues for farmers and are better prepared to meet the unique needs of farm workers and their families.”
Interested participants can request a referral by calling 301-405-4153; openings are limited to farm families and other non-industrial land managers.
Digital resources are also available from Extension to help farm families.
Extension indicated that “because of the critical role of farmers in our state and across the nation, the UMD Extension has prepared this selection of assets to help farm families navigate the numerous resources available online and provide timely, science-based education and information to support prosperous farms and healthy farm families.”
Among subjects included are ones focused on Financial Resources, Stress Management, and Legal Resources. In addition, the organization noted that resources are available for qualifying participants through telehealth options, transportation services, and assistance with technology.
Other organizations are also encouraging farmers to consider using local mental health resources.
“The Delaware Farm Bureau was awarded funds by the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Strategic Action Fund to create our ‘Healthy Farmers Grow Healthy Crops’ campaign,” Jennifer Antonik, public relations coordinator of the Delaware Farm Bureau, said. “This campaign has afforded us the opportunity to share mental health and physical health resources to our members on our website, in our weekly newsletters, and by connecting with local media outlets.”
While the organization is not directly providing mental health services itself, “we now share related resources to members and the public so they can reach out when help is needed,” Antonik said.
Among services highlighted by the Delaware Farm Bureau are ones offered through the Delaware Division of Public Health.
Free counseling services are available through the Delaware Hope Line at 833-9-HOPEDE. In addition, free crisis counseling by telephone is available to address urgent and emergent behavioral health needs through the Delaware Crisis Intervention Service. In Northern Delaware, people can call 800-652-2929; in Southern Delaware, people can call 800-345-6785.
In addition to these local and regional efforts, Delmarva farmers may also consider utilizing the 988 Crisis Line. “988” is the designated national telephone number for people to seek assistance in times of crisis.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline telephone number of 1-800-273-8255 continues to function alongside 988.