Commentary: If you feel stressed, you’re not alone; talk to someone

Issue Date: October 7, 2020
By Zippy Duvall
Zippy Duvall

If you had asked me five years ago if we in agriculture would be talking so much about mental health, I probably would have said no. But in just a few short years, the stresses bearing down on farmers and ranchers have become too great to ignore.

From low prices to bad weather, from too much work to not enough helping hands to get it done, farmers face levels of stress that would throw anyone for a loop. I'm glad we're talking about it, because it's just not necessary or helpful to try to get through these stressful times alone.

For my most recent episode of the Farmside Chat podcast, I sat down with two guests who are playing important roles in addressing farm and rural stress.

Chad Vorthmann, the executive director of the Colorado Farm Bureau, shared his commitment to raising awareness that stress and the risk of suicide are a huge problem in rural America. Chad pointed out that the suicide rate in rural America is about twice that of other areas. He serves on the American Farm Bureau Rural Resilience Sounding Board, a group of Farm Bureau members and staff who are working on this issue in their communities and states and guiding our efforts at AFBF.

In our conversation, Chad shared that he had friends who had lost loved ones to suicide, and it seems that, unfortunately, more of us are able to say the same. Chad and I talked about the fact that farmers and ranchers are "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" people, and how that strength can be a weakness in the face of overwhelming stress. That's why we're talking about it and trying to get more farmers and ranchers to open up and get help, whether it's just someone to listen or professional counseling.

This episode of Farmside Chat also includes my conversation with Tara Coronado, a young farmer in California. Tara's enthusiasm for agriculture is nothing short of amazing, and you can hear it in her voice. I could've talked with Tara all day about her story of coming back home to the family farm and starting her own vineyard, but what I really wanted to talk about was her #MentalHealthMonday campaign on social media.

Tara's story of anxiety when her dad was seriously injured, and then grief after the tragic loss of her grandpa's life—on top of the "emotional rollercoaster" of farming—is both extraordinary and something that ordinary farmers and ranchers can relate to, because don't we all have things happening in our family lives that are just layered on top of the farm stresses we're already struggling to handle?

"Once I started talking about it…I had no idea how helpful that was going to be," she said.

Tara talked about that feeling we all sometimes have, that no one else understands what we're dealing with. But once we start talking about it, we find out that so many others are feeling the same way.

My conversation with Tara—on a tough topic—was uplifting, and I thank her so much for sharing her story. I also thank her for lending her voice and using social media to help people see it's OK to talk about mental health. You can learn more about Tara and her work on her blog at www.beavervineyards.com/blog.

Just talking about this issue is such an important part of the solution. If launching a podcast where we've talked about rural stress helps one person who is feeling lost, it has been more than worth it.

We'll keep talking about mental health and other issues on Farmside Chat. I hope you'll join us and listen: www.fb.org/podcast/category/farmside-chat.

As we do with every communication on rural stress, I want to say that if you feel you're burdened by stress and need help, talk with someone. If you're not comfortable talking with your friends or family, call your local Farm Bureau. They'll find a way to help you. Look up resources online. You can find a lot of resources on our Farm State of Mind website: www.fb.org/programs/farm-state-of-mind.

Just know you are not alone. And if you know someone who seems to be struggling, don't wait for them to ask for help. Reach out and see how they're doing. Let them know you want to listen.

(Vincent "Zippy" Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Georgia, is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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