They are good at caring for their animals and their land, but even some farmers admit they are not so good at making sure they are okay.
Webinars and pocket guides are just some of the ways UW-Extension is reaching out to farmers to make sure farm families take care of themselves mentally and emotionally as well as physically. The Wisconsin State Farmer reported last year that farmers were among the most likely to kill themselves compared to other occupations. Falling commodity prices, growing farm debt, and the everyday pressures of farming are to blame for the jump which inspired similar stress and mental health awareness efforts for farmers nationwide.
Kewaunee County UW Extension Human Development and Relationship Educator Renee Koenig says farmers are resilient, but they often need to be told that they need help.
Koenig advises farmers to take a little time for themselves every now and then despite the hustle and bustle that comes with busy times like the planting and harvest seasons. You can find more resources below.
Supporting Farmers: “Making the Connection” for Mental Health
Submitted by Renee Koenig
Aerica Bjurstrom and Renee Koenig are UW-Madison Extension Educators who are reaching out to farmers in Door, Kewaunee and Manitowoc counties to connect them to supportive resources. They are providing “Making the Connection” resource guides to help support our farm families and communities during challenging times. Farm families are resilient individuals, but there are times when help is needed.
“As we head into the busy planting and harvest season, stress and lack of sleep will be commonplace. Now is a good time to remember to take care of yourself so you’re there for the people around you” Bjurstrom reminds local farmers. Koenig adds, “the timing of our efforts to reach farm families aligns with April is Stress Awareness Month and May is Mental Health Awareness Month.”
“Making the Connection” resource guides are pocket-size booklets. “We wanted to give farmers a useful list of resources in a small, sturdy booklet that they can keep in their truck console or pants pocket,” says Koenig. The booklets come with a magnet on the back so you can tear the back page off and attach it to a refrigerator or filing cabinet for quick reference. The booklets list signs and symptoms of stress and where to get help if you or someone you know is struggling with stress or other behavioral health factors.
Seeking help for stress or anxiety is a healthy way to ensure you, and those around you will be here for many more seasons to come. Accidents happen on the farm when operators are stressed and/or tired. Reduce stress by:
· Eating right
· Getting enough sleep
· Focus on relaxing breathing
· Drink plenty of water
· Listen to relaxing music
· Take a break! Give yourself a break too!
It’s okay to take a break and close your eyes to rest for a few minutes. Sometimes all it takes is five minutes of quiet and relaxation to rejuvenate your mind. Give yourself a break too. People are naturally their own biggest critic, instead be your biggest supporter. Everyone is a better person when they’re in the right frame of mind.
This quote from Adrienne Desutter, Illinois farm wife, mom and behavioral health specialist, is included in each booklet given to the farmers:
“Farmers are the best caregivers in the world.
They care for crops, they care for land, and they care for animals,
but they’re not always the best caregivers of themselves.”
It's important to keep looking for, and using tools that will help you manage life's inevitable ups and downs in a healthy way. Keeping stress at a manageable level is important for your overall well-being.
If you would like copies of the “Making the Connection” booklet, please feel free to contact Aerica Bjurstrom at email@example.com or Renee Koenig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional farm stress resources from UW-Madison Extension are available online at https://farms.extension.wisc.edu/farmstress/.
If You Need Immediate Assistance
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Harvest of Hope
WI Department of Ag, Trade and Consumer Protection Farm Center
Covering Wisconsin – County Community Resources
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration