Monday, November 11, 2019

USDA program aims to help suicidal farmers and ranchers

The past few years have been bad for U.S. agriculture, and farmers have struggled with a trade war that has eroded markets, plus bad weather and flooding. As farm bankruptcies and loan delinquencies rise, farmer suicides apparently are, too, Annie Gowen reports for The Washington Post.

"A 2017 study found that farm owners and workers were three to five times as likely to kill themselves on the job compared with other occupations," Gowen reports. "Researchers studying more recent data have not yet determined if farmer suicides are increasing, but leaders and social workers in rural America say that, anecdotally, they’re seeing more of these deaths."

An increase in calls to suicide hotlines from farmers has prompted state and federal officials to put more funding into programs aimed at improving farmers' mental health. "The Agriculture Department is setting up the first $1.9 million phase of a farm and ranch stress-support network to expand emergency hotlines, training and support groups for farmers and ranchers," Gowen reports. The Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill but was left unfunded for more than a decade.

USDA also started a $450,000 pilot program training workers on how to help farmers in extreme emotional distress and make mental health referrals for them, Gowen reports.

Here are some suicide-prevention and mental-health resources for farmers and others:

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