This annual event cultivates understanding and evaluating the vital intersection of agriculture and mental health.Read More
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains mental health as “our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”
The definition is pretty straightforward and rather simple despite it being a topic that we tend to cringe about when we hear the words. We as a society tend to ignore that mental health struggles are normal and something that every single one of us is impacted by at some point in our lives.
In the last few years, I’ve been part of so many conversations surrounding mental health. I’ve been on community forums, sat through keynote speeches, met with local mental health professionals, sat down around a table with a local farmer who shared his story, discussed the impact mental health has in agriculture, and I’ve been through QPR training (training for someone in a position to recognize a crisis and the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide) and I will admit that the topic still makes me a little uncomfortable to talk about.
This is why I continue to be engaged and to push myself to talk to others about it, and perhaps the hardest part of all, to admit that I was struggling personally.
A couple of years ago, through a work-related professional development opportunity, I took the Clifton Strengths Assessment. The assessment is designed to help people understand their strengths and behaviors. The assessment is designed to help you develop strategies to meet and exceed the demands of our daily lives, our careers, and our families. It’s probably no surprise to any of you who know me, that my top five strengths (ranked by most dominant) are: achiever, communication, futuristic, strategic, and maximizer. To sum up the lengthy descriptions, I am someone who has a constant need for achievement, who wants to inspire the world, and is constantly fascinated by the “what ifs” of the future, and anything less than excellence from me is not rewarding. Basically, I have to be busy and productive all the time, and I never stop thinking about how I can make something better, whether that be an event, my home, or even myself.
Unfortunately, that achiever strength isn’t always a good thing. Over the last few years that need for always being busy and having a mind that tells me I must be productive all the time has left me incredibly stressed, exhausted, burned-out, and void of any self-care. After COVID-19 and the joy I felt having no long work days and no night meetings keeping me from my family and our small farm, my children and husband home, and getting many household projects done, I had a hard time returning to normal life.
Finally, four months ago I decided I needed to do something about it. I met with my doctor and shared how I had been feeling. No matter how much I shared with others about the struggles of mental health in agriculture and rural areas, no matter how much I strive to learn about how I can help, at that moment, I realized that I felt like something was wrong with me.
My husband and mom both reiterated that this stage of life is hard with work and young kids and that this was a good first step in taking control of things. I fail more often than not, but what I learned is two steps in the right direction (even when you wanted 100 that day) are double what I had before I started this journey.
Sharing this story wasn’t an easy task. One thing I have learned is sharing your story can make a difference for you — and for others.
Suicide and mental health diseases are steadily increasing in agriculture. Farmers are proud and strong and resilient. Like me, they do what they do every day because it is their passion and they can’t imagine doing anything differently, and being a farmer, you have to be strong. I don’t know a farmer I don’t view as strong.
Sharing my story in this column wasn’t to tell you that mental health is an issue. It is to tell you that not talking about mental health is the bigger issue. We have to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more normal it is and when things feel normal, they are easier.
It’s normal to be upset, angry, and depressed. It’s normal to not want to share that with others. Feelings are private, and if you want those feelings to yourself, that is OK too. But keeping them to yourself and bottled up will eat you from the inside out. Not one farmer out there has avoided those feelings. Farmers face droughts, frosts, and floods, fires, and hurricanes, death of livestock, increasing input costs, shortage of labor that leads to long hours and exhausted bodies. Farmers face the pressure of keeping generational farms in operation and transition planning concerns and fears. The list of uncertainties goes on and on. But the one certainty is that ” A healthy farm or ranch is nothing without a healthy you” (American Farm Bureau #FarmStateofMind).
Additional resources for the Ag Community include American Farm Bureau’s Farm State of Mind program, Ohio Dept. of Agriculture’s Got Your Back program resources in Trumbull County: the Mental Health and Recovery Board and Dial 2-1-1 (information/referral/suicide hotline)
Submitted by Mandy Orahood, the organization director at Ohio Farm Bureau Federation serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.
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I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.Strong communities
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If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
By talking about it, we can erase the stigma that comes with mental health.Read More
This first-of-its-kind group focuses on offering more resources to agricultural communities. The group’s first action is introducing a new, anonymous survey to seek feedback directly from rural communities.Read More
This joint initiative aimed to equip attendees with the tools and understanding required to address mental health concerns within the community.Read More
The Yvonne Lesicko Perseverance Prize recognizes groups or individuals working to find innovative solutions to farmer mental health difficulties. Nominations are due July 31, 2023.Read More
Mental health advocate Brandon Fullenkamp from Highland County was a guest on the Farmside Chat podcast with American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall.Read More
A short play was designed to encourage attendees to discuss stress, the impacts of stress, and the resources available locally to deal with stress.Read More
The morning kicked off with an opportunity to speak with those gathered, network with multiple businesses and area agencies, and reconnect with old friends.Read More