Farming has always been stressful. But when you add on the physical, mental and financial concerns caused by COVID-19, the stress levels can be off the charts.
Agriculture is often viewed as an industry of capable and independent people. Because of this, farmers and ranchers are less likely to access resources in time of need, says Sean Brotherson, an Extension family life specialist at North Dakota State University.
“Asking for help or seeking resources is not a sign of inadequacy or weakness, but a sign of wisdom and strength,” he says.
As livestock producers face difficult decisions regarding animal care and euthanasia in the weeks ahead, he says feelings of depression might arise.
“If you are already dealing with high stress or depression coming into these challenging times, certain decisions can trigger a greater likelihood of suicidal thinking. I want people to be aware of the potential of that and take steps to have safety plans of who they can contact if they have thoughts of self-harm,” Brotherson says.
Social support is important. No one is alone in facing these hard times, adds Val Farmer, a clinical psychologist and author. Don’t fall into the misguided view that you need to handle the stress by yourself.
“Hard times will come and go,” he says. “Do what you can to help everyone at this point – don’t just focus on yourself. Broaden your concerns and share your inner life with people more. Don’t worry about what neighbors think and say – they are in the same boat you are, the more you talk, the better.
Farmer adds one of the main ways you can spot the signs among your friends is noticing where your friends are not showing up.
“Social withdrawal is a key thing to look for, but with social distancing now, that’s hard to see,” Farmer says. “We have to find ways to get our friends talking – to find out what is going on with them. As long as they can stay hidden, they are more dangerous to themselves.”
Phone calls, texts, social media messages, drive-by visits and waves can all help now. “Once it’s out in the open, it becomes a solvable problem,” Farmer says.
If you need immediate help, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
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To learn the signs of suicidal risk and find more resources to help you manage mental and physical stress, visit www.AgWeb.com/rural-health.