Breaking the Stigma Around Mental Health
It’s no secret that farming is a stressful occupation – no matter how noble it is.
With growing stress around economics, a multitude of daily tasks, and now a global pandemic, mental health has become a bigger conversation – or it should be. Feelings are easy to push down or out of the way because we’ve grown up with a “suck-it-up” mentality. But it’s incredibly important to get depression and anxiety out in the open and to learn to deal with them in a healthy way.
In our newest episode of In the Driver’s Seat, co-hosts Doug Roose and Shelby Schweitzer from ADM’s Producer Marketing team talk with Jason Medows, a cow-calf operator from Cuba, Missouri, and a healthcare professional. Medows found a way to bridge the gap between mental health and farming through his podcast, Ag State of Mind, which focuses on mental health challenges in rural America.
The podcast is a way for Jason to pay forward what he’s learned and to give back to the agriculture community. As we talked with him, we learned how to better manage emotions like anxiety and depression, and we’ve shared the conversation highlights with you here.
Be Aware of These Mental Health Indicators
With so many factors out of our control, emotions and struggles are a normal part of farm life. But it’s important to recognize the difference between “normal” emotions and dangerous levels of depression or anxiety. Pay attention to the signals of really serious distress in yourself or your loved ones.
These important mental health indicators include, but are not limited to the following:
- Sleeping more or less
- Eating more or less
- Change in a daily routine
- Mood changes
Any deviation from a person’s “normal” in these areas can be cause for concern – and a reason to seek help.
Ways to Nourish Mental Health
There’s no cure-all for guarding mental health. Instead, it’s a matter of checking in and managing your emotions every day. Of course, proper diagnosis and medication, if needed, are key. But then there are key habits to keep yourself in check.
One is to center yourself around priorities. Think about these questions:
- What are your core values?
- What is most important to you?
- What are your goals?
- How’s your connection with the people you care about?
Take the time to sit down and write out your answers. As humans, we often do things out of tradition or habit, without examining why activities are driving us. By centering on what’s really important, you can be intentional with your time and money and create space for the things that matter most.
Also, take time away from farm responsibilities. You’ll better understand what’s bothering or upsetting you and have a chance to refocus on priorities. Consider four ways to de-stress and remember them by the acronym H.E.R.D.– Hobbies, Exercise, Relaxation, and Diversion. It’s a mantra coined by Josie Rudolphi, an assistant professor in rural mental health at the University of Illinois.
It’s a good idea to have your own mantra to live up to!
Mental Health Resources to Consider
Make sure to have someone you trust and care about who can listen to you. Reach out to that person often to talk about your state of mind. If you’re that person for someone else – a family member or friend – check in regularly to see how they’re doing.
Jason also shared these resources in the episode:
- Farm Counseling – Subsidized counseling and other resources offered by the Minnesota Rural Mental Health program, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
- Do More in Agriculture Foundation – A website connecting Canadian farmers with mental health resources, but other information on the site is valuable to farm families anywhere.
- Dr. Val Farmer – Resources developed by a psychologist specializing in rural issues, covering topics related to mental health including financial stress, addiction, parenting, and many others.
If you or someone you care about may be struggling with a mental health issue, please contact one of these national hotlines:
- Farm Aid
Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- 2-1-1 – A comprehensive hotline that connects callers with local resources
To learn more about mental health and agriculture, listen to the podcast episode with Jason Medows.
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