Agriculture is known to have numerous unique occupational hazards. Physical hazards include heat and sun exposure and the potential dangers of working with heavy machinery. Working out in the elements also brings the risk of venomous snakes, spiders, and disease-carrying mosquitos. What is less often discussed, however, are the mental and emotional hazards associated with working in agriculture. The volatile farm economy, long days at work, social isolation, and natural disasters can add stress beyond what is expected or tolerated in other industries.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and is a significant opportunity to remind anyone struggling that they are not alone and do not have to suffer in silence. A 2021 poll commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation found that farmers and farm workers were more comfortable talking to friends, family, and doctors about stress and mental health than in 2019. Open dialogue about stress and mental wellbeing can help reduce stigma in the community, which is often cited as a barrier to seeking care for a mental health challenge. Emotional wellness is a key dimension of our health and must be maintained, just like physical wellness, to live a fulfilling life. If you are struggling or notice someone else struggling, seek help. Recovery from a mental health challenge or illness, like recovery from a heart attack or other physical illness, is possible. There is always hope.
The following resources are designed for agricultural producers and families:
- Ag Law in the Field Podcast Mental Health Episodes: https://aglaw.libsyn.com/category/Mental+Health+
- Commodity Classic Mental Health on the Farm Panel Recording: https://commodityclassic.com/mental-health-on-the-farm
- Do More Ag Foundation: https://www.domore.ag/
- National Agricultural Law Center Compilation of Mental Health Resources by State: https://nationalaglawcenter.org/center-publications/family/mentalhealth/
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- Southwest Ag Center: https://www.uthct.edu/southwest-center-for-agricultural-health-injury-prevention-and-education/agstress/
- Ted Matthews YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSvJTRFczJh8DJwWmAx7NpQ
Authors: Miquela Smith, MPH Extension Program Specialist – Health and Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, Associate Professor & Extension Specialist – Ag Law