A national poll conducted in April found that 48% of rural adults are experiencing more mental health challenges than a year ago.
Based on those findings, the American Farm Bureau Federation is partnering with Farm Credit and the National Farmers Union to help combat farm stress with a training program that will offer online and in-person training for individuals working with farmers.
The program is based on one developed by Michigan State University Extension for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. It focuses on training participants to understand farmers’ sources of stress, recognize warning signs of stress and suicide, and create communication strategies to reduce the stigma related to mental health concerns in farming communities.
Research found farmers are less likely to seek help, despite suffering higher rates of stress and depression. With 60% of rural Americans living in areas with shortages of mental health professionals, program trainees will work to coordinate mental health services for farmers.
AFBF’s partnership will further connect farmers with financial, legal and mental health resources through the NFU Rural Resilience program and its Farm Crisis Center, which can be found at farmcrisis.nfu.org.
“Farm Bureau is a family, and when a member is hurting, we all feel it and are eager to help. But we may not always know how to spot the warning signs that someone is overwhelmed,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “This training program will help our members recognize the warning signs and empower them to get help for their friends, family, neighbors or even themselves.”
The poll, conducted by AFBF, also showed that 91% of farmers said the main source of their stress was caused by financial issues and 87% feared losing their farm.
At the 2019 Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in December, Minnesota grain farmer Theresia Gillie warned Virginia farmers that similar stressors led her husband, Keith Gillie, to take his own life in 2017.