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 well-being 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.

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.”

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:

  • American Farm Bureau’s fb.org/land/impact-covid19-on-ag is a hub of agriculture-specific information for farmers.
  • AFBF’s fb.org/programs/rural-resilience provides warning signs of stress, steps to take to combat stress and training to manage stress.
  • Go.osu.edu/agcrisis – OSU College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences has updated its ag crisis website with a COVID-19 tab specifically for Ohio farmers and has a substantial amount of information related to farm stress.
  • ofb.ag/gotyourback is the Ohio Department of Agriculture website on farm stress.
  • Coronavirus.ohio.gov is where to find up-to-date information about the novel coronavirus itself.