Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

June 20, 2019
Community can help farmers who are struggling with mental health

Editors note: “A Better Life” is a weekly column by the USU Extension – Tooele Office that focuses on a variety of topics intended to enhance quality of life. 

With Father’s Day as the June holiday of record, it is not surprising that June is Men’s Health Month. We want to keep our fathers healthy and living for years to come. 

But men may sometimes neglect their health. This is particularly true when it comes to mental health. And rural communities can be hard hit. With the increase in farm stress in recent years, farmer death by suicide has become a growing concern. 

There is some debate about farmer suicide statistics, with some reports citing double the national average and a higher suicide rate than veterans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled back from these estimates as it looked at the entire agri-industry, and not just those who manage farms. 

But it isn’t hard to imagine why there is so much stress, with a US News report stating that net farm income is down 50% since 2013. 

Randy Weigel, with the University of Wyoming Extension program, notes that during the last farm crisis of the 1980s, pastors and clergy helped farmers get the help they needed. As society pulls away from religious roots, these sources of support aren’t as readily accessible to all. 

The entire community can make a difference by noticing the signs of stress. There are a number of signs that can help identify farm stress, listed at Colorado State University Extension at: extension.colostate.edu/disaster-web-sites/farm-and-ranch-family-stress-and-depression-a-checklist-and-guide-for-making-referrals/.

The following are things that can be observed by family, friends, neighbors, veterinarians, clergy, milk or hay haulers, or someone at the local store. Look for:

• A change in routine: this can mean stopping usual activities like church, 4-H, or even the usual coffee stop.

• Care of livestock declines: you see their condition worsening or showing signs of neglect.

• Increases in illness: getting sick more often, colds, flu or even aches and pains that persist.

• Increases in farm accidents: fatigue and difficulty concentrating can lead to more mistakes.

• Farmstead declines: the appearance of the farm or ranch starts to suffer as there is less energy for maintenance work.

• Children show signs of stress: the kids may start acting out or struggling in school.

As we noted last month, Tooele County has a strong list of community partners who support mental health and can ease the burden of farm stress. Between support groups at Mountain West Medical Center held by The Life’s Worth Living Foundation, and the Question, Persuade, Refer trainings offered by Tooele Communities that Care (CTC), there are places and people who offer support. 

If you are interested in learning more about how to identify the signs of mental stress, Mental Health First Aid trainings are being offered to local residents. To schedule a training, contact Maren Wright Voss, ScD at maren.voss@usu.edu or call 301-851-8464.

Maren Wright Voss, ScD, is a professional practice extension assistant professor of health and wellness at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can also be reached at 435-277-2409 and at maren.voss@usu.edu.

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