Documentary Features Farmer and Mental Health Stigma

Jeff Ditzenberger is a Wisconsin farmer who started the group TUGS to end mental health stigma after his own suicide attempt. He’s featured in a new PBS film Greener Pastures.

I hope everybody gets an opportunity to see it. I hope everybody gets an opportunity after that to thank a farmer or to go next door and you know, ask him a farmer’s okay or stop it there, you know, stop at their farm and drop off some doughnuts and whatnot. I have a conversation and thank them for putting in you know, helping to put food on our tables at the same time to start caring more about our fellow man. So I’m hoping that you know some of some of the things that this will do, as well as change the change the climate of our attitudes.

He says there’s more awareness around mental wellness in agriculture today.

“So I think what’s driving it is that there are more and more people I believe, personally, that are starting to want to have these conversations that are tired of, you know, the target of having hard conversations, but when I when I talk to people, the hard conversation is not talking to somebody about suicide, or about their depression or their PTSD or any of that kind of stuff. The hard conversation is when we don’t talk to them. And then we’re at their visitation or their funeral and having to talk to their family.”

Ditzenberger hopes the film sparks more conversations.

“That’s one of those things that I’m hoping that this film does as well, not only sparks conversation about mental health and mental wellness among our agricultural and our rural communities, but also starts to remind people that hey, there are still people out there working 20 hours a day, seven days a week, you know, who don’t get to take a lot of occasions. You know, it’s 40 below zero and there’s a mama cow out there who’s struggling to give birth and they’re out there and a teacher and realize that there are still hands and hearts and hopes that are that are producing their food and that’s the other message that I’d really like to get out there.”

The film debuted on PBS on Monday.