Additional support proposed for farm stress
Additional resources supporting mental health are helping to recognize underlying stressors farmers face.
Ohio State University rural sociologist Shoshanah (sh-shan-ah) Inwood tells Brownfield there are often invisible mental health issues in agriculture aside from suicide. For example, she says her research is finding postpartum depression is common and likely higher in rural areas.
“In almost every focus group we did, there was a woman who mentioned having postpartum depression, and over half of our national sample of farmers who responded said that they knew somebody or had somebody in their family that had suffered from pre and postpartum depression,” she says.
She says more resources to support regular stressors in rural communities, like affordable healthcare and access to childcare, could create a more resilient industry.
“When we’re looking about what are the extraordinary stressors in agriculture, a lot of times we focus on weather, on climate events, those are going to be big stressors,” she says. “But it’s the everyday stressors like childcare that actually affect your ability to withstand and be resilient to those bigger stressors.”
Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate to reauthorize the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network and increase program funding levels. The Farmers First Act would help support farm stress services and counseling specific to unique factors in agriculture.
The bill was introduced by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), and cosponsored by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT); Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Boozman (R-AR), Tina Smith (D-MN); Jerry Moran (R-KS); Susan Collins (R-ME); and Michael Bennet (D-CO).
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.