Prioritizing Mental Health and Preventing Suicide

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, UPL is committed to reminding growers about the benefits of mental and physical well-being out on the farm, especially as harvest is now underway for most.  Kathy Dothage, an extension professional in the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri Extension Service, says prioritizing your health is more important now than ever.

“Particularly at this time of the year. It’s harvest time, lots of stress. There are lots of things going on in families –  back to school, new sports, too many kids in too many different things – and, of course, the things that we can’t prioritize or the things that we can’t control. What we need to do is think about what works best for the individuals and their families, like getting up perhaps a bit earlier or when it might be a quiet time, getting off the tractor or the combine just for a quick break, and just working those kinds of things and paying close attention to our bodies.”

She talks about warning signs of mental and physical distress that growers and their families should look out for. It’s important to remember that those signs involve significant changes in behavior.

“If individuals are sleeping too much or not sleeping. If they’re eating or drinking too much or not eating. Are they more irritable? Do they, if you will, fly off the handle more quickly? Is there a change in their mood? Another thing that’s incredibly important is to think about isolation. Are they not doing things they used to be doing things? Do they go to the coffee shop once a week or so? Are they usually going to church or some kind of organization, and they quit doing that? So, we’re looking at changes in behavior.”

It’s so important for growers feeling stressed, anxious, or even suicidal to talk to someone.

“There’s a wonderful option that we have that has just gone into effect. In fact, right now, we’re at the one-year anniversary, and that’s 988. It is the suicide and crisis prevention line. It’s going to be video, so individuals will be able to if they are hearing impaired, will be able to use that 988 line. You can text, you can call, an individual who’s expressing a crisis or just wants to talk to somebody or is just not feeling well and wants to talk to somebody, so they’re trained counselors. If you’re a family member, or if you have a friend that you’re worried about, you can call that 988 number.”

The University of Missouri has several resources that farmers in and outside of Missouri can access.

“We have several farm and ranch stress grants that allow us to provide classes and sessions for farmers and their families or people who work with farmers. We have all kinds of written resources. There’s a really good website, ‘Show Me Strong Farm Families,’ that has lots of good information on it. One of the grants that we have is a multi-state. There are 12 states that are involved, so we collaborate to bring the best of the best so that we can provide those to all individuals – farmers, ranchers and their farm families.”

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