Thursday, May 28, 2020

Iowa program to help farmers struggling with mental health in the pandemic; national resources listed

"Studies have found the rates of mental illness and suicide are higher for farmers. They work long hours, have limited social contact and are at the mercy of factors such as weather. Now the covid-19 pandemic is creating even greater challenges to their livelihood—and mental health," Natalie Krebs reports for Side Effects, a news collaborative that covers public health.

Iowa Concern, an Iowa State University extension program that helps farmers with financial, legal and mental-health concerns, is creating a state-funded initiative effort to help with pandemic stresses.

Many Midwestern farmers were already facing financial problems before the pandemic because of the trade war with China and more than a year of very wet weather. The pandemic has caused more problems, such as inability to sell crops or get livestock to slaughterhouses, and the stress of having to euthanize healthy animals. "In the Midwest, more than 300 family farms filed for bankruptcy in the 12-month period that ended in March. That was a 42 percent jump," Krebs notes.

One expert told Krebs that increased depression and stress could lead many farmers to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and that more may abuse alcohol and/or try to harm themselves, but many find it hard to seek help because so many feel their identity is tied to endurance and hard work.

The new Iowa Concern initiative will direct farmers to mental-health resources. For those in other states, here are some farmer suicide prevention and mental-health resources:

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