Field Day with Jordan

Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer: Farmer Mental Health

In the latest episode of Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Water Quality and Research talks with farmer and Ohio Farm Bureau state board member Nathan Brown about a pressing issue in the agriculture community — mental health.

Hoewischer and Brown discuss resources available for farmers who are experiencing a difficult planting season, low crop prices and the everyday stress that comes with the unpredictability of farming.

Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer is an ongoing series of conversations with experts and leaders who are helping to shape and secure the future of Ohio’s ag industry for generations to come.

Following are some highlights from this episode. Complete transcript

Jordan Hoewischer: I’m reading articles on farmer mental health and seeing a lot of momentum toward getting the word out on just trying to push farmers to speak up, especially in times of economic stress and what’s going on in the markets these days. I’ll let you expand upon why mental health for farmers and agriculturalists is important to you.

Nathan Brown: I’ve heard people say, “Well if you can’t handle the stress, then get out.” Well that’s not really a fair statement for anybody because if you had cancer, you just need to quit your job because you have cancer? No. I mean you’re gonna go find help. And it doesn’t always have to be professional help, I don’t think. You need to build the good support of peers.

Jordan Hoewischer: And that’s why, not to toot the Farm Bureau horn, but that’s why the Farm Bureaus of the world and organizations are good because farming can be isolating. Like you said, some people don’t have the help or they just don’t have that avenue to express what’s going on and I think it’s always good to surround yourself with people going through the same situation, either someone who’s raising kids or somebody who’s just starting out farming or somebody who just lost a family member or whatever that situation is.

Nathan Brown: I farm my own ground and I do some custom (farming) and we didn’t finish up some of our custom stuff until the spring. And the stress and anxiety of knowing that I still had crops standing in the field and we had snow flying or it was 10 below, and trying to figure out how I was gonna pay my bills last fall really hit home there for a little while and I put together my group of peers and we all met and talked, and talked with the wife and we kind of got through it. And at the end of the day you gotta sit back and realize that God is in control and you can’t control what happens.

Jordan Hoewischer: What have you seen in your world in terms of how farmers are dealing with the stress of the season and just mental health in general?

Nathan Brown: I think a lot of them have been reaching out on social media and kind of bridging that gap and talking with each other. That’s one thing that I wish… we have mental health professionals in this country and not enough. But when it comes to agriculture, agriculture is a different beast. I mean it’s more than a job; it’s more than a career. It’s a lifestyle. And for a mental health professional to be able to work in that realm they have to understand that. If you don’t come from an agricultural background, it’s hard to understand how all those pieces put together. We’re working. Hopefully we can get some more mental health professionals in the state of Ohio. That’s something that has been on my plate and something that I really want to work toward because there isn’t a lot of help other than peer to peer communications.

Jordan Hoewischer: Are there any other tools that you would suggest to farmers or any other avenues, or is it just kind of like, ‘Hey talk to somebody that you’re comfortable talking with’ and maybe try to start there?

Nathan Brown: Well No. 1 is talk to somebody that you feel comfortable with. Seek professional help. It may not be something in your town and you may have to go to Columbus or Cincinnati or Cleveland, and then they may still not be able to fit all the pieces together. But talk to somebody. And Ohio State Extension. They’ve been working on some mental health stuff, so that might be another resource for you to reach out to, just to see what what they can help you with.

Ohio State Farmer Mental Health Resources

Ohio Department of Agriculture Mental Health Resources

Nathan Brown: The other thing I want to bring up. Watch and observe (your friends and family’s) daily routines. If they’re changing, if they’re involved in alcohol, drinking more, or they’re not showing up on time…Just check on your friends. Say, ‘Hey, you doing OK?’ Because a lot of times, just that little bit will open up a lot and that means a lot to people.

Jordan Hoewischer: It may ebb and flow a little bit but we are entering a continued risk environment. It’s probably not going to get any better so we need to be as strong as we can in all facets to keep farming healthy and keep farmers healthy and keep moving in the right direction.