Monday, June 07, 2021

Colorado drought conditions worsen farmers' suicide rates

Drought map of the United States as of June 1; red areas are in 'Extreme Drought' and maroon areas are in 'Exceptional Drought' (U.S. Drought Monitor map; click the image to enlarge it)

Drought conditions in Colorado are correlated with a rise in farmers' suicide rates over the past decade, according to newly analyzed data, Southwestern NPR affiliate KSJD's Lucas Brady Woods reports for Arizona State University's Cronkite News.

Over the past decade, farmer suicide rates have risen and fallen along with drought conditions in the state, according to data compiled by Colorado-based suicide-prevention group Celebrating Healthy Communities. That's of particular concern right now as much of the Southwest, along with Oregon, some of the Upper Midwest and the Sacramento Valley, are experiencing extreme drought conditions, Woods reports.

Increasing financial stressors over the past decade are also linked to spikes in suicide rates in farming communities, Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg told Woods. "Greenberg said her department is working with local partners across the state to get more resources to rural areas. What works in a city might not translate to agricultural communities. So, she said, resources such as online training manuals or public service announcements should be written with that in mind. Colorado also maintains a crisis hotline — a free and confidential mental health resource that’s available 24/7," Woods reports. "But as climate change continues to heat up and dry out the West’s farmland, Greenberg said the stress that comes with water scarcity will remain a challenge in keeping agriculture viable, and those who do it mentally well."

Here are some farmer suicide prevention and mental-health resources:

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