Grain bin at sunset

Mental health care vital as farmers’ concerns grow

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to greatly impact daily life, there is an even greater need to take care of not only physical but mental health. Agriculture is an essential business, but the extra stress of the pandemic and the coming planting season can weigh heavily on Ohio farmers.

“There is an increased sense of anxiety or concern for farmers and livestock producers currently due to both the COVID-19 crisis as well as a looming wet spring,” said Ohio Farm Bureau Southeast Regional Trustee Jenny Cox. “There are several concerning factors for farmers right now.”

Cox noted that some of those concerns include getting crops in the ground, the larger supply chain being backed up or shut down for livestock producers, generating enough cash flow to keep operations going, falling commodity prices and concerns about personal health as well as the wellbeing of employees and monitoring that they are following appropriate protocols.

All these concerns can pile up, making it imperative for farmers to care for their own mental health and check in on other producers, according to OFBF State Board Trustee Nathan Brown.

“In order to keep my sanity, I have reached out to many friends across the state and even the country. In every conversation, we each have discussed our own mental health and how we are feeling – yes, feeling,” he said. “I know that at least once a day I will get a call from someone checking on me and I appreciate that, and often we both end up sharing the feelings of that day and that is OK.”

Cox said farmers are going to do everything they can to produce a crop or raise livestock to feed the world regardless of weather conditions or a pandemic such as COVID-19.

“That is just what we do,” Cox said.

Taking advantage of mental health resources can help farmers do what they do best. Following are links to mental health resources specifically for farmers dealing with anxiety related to their livelihoods and COVID-19:

Brown stressed that farmers should reach out, check on people, really ask how they are doing and be sincere.

“If you are struggling, know it’s OK to reach out to friends or even have a telemedicine chat with a mental health professional,” he said. 

Cox agrees and said she believes farmers and residents in rural communities are increasingly finding mental health resources helpful.

“Farmers are humble by nature, and asking for help is uncommon in any aspect of their lives,” she said. “However, I believe that asking for mental health help has become a bit easier due to the increased awareness of opportunities to ask for help in a private manner, as well as increased awareness of mental health programs and treatment options that are available in rural areas.” 

Online extras

Ohio Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy Yvonne Lesicko was a guest on the FarmHer/Shining Bright podcast on mental health.

The mental well-being of farmers during the COVID-19 crisis is critical to each farmer, his or her family and the nation. Several mental health resources are available, including the COVID CareLine, whose staff has been trained to recognize and support the unique mental health needs of farmers.