May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to step back and check in with your family, your staff, and most importantly, yourself.
Mental health concerns are more common than you might think. Each year, millions of Americans deal with mental health issues, either for themselves or for a loved one. Issues range from stress and frustration with daily events to more severe mental health challenges. Few among us haven’t been touched by mental health issues. Even if you feel you don’t have any mental health concerns, it’s worth taking a deep breath to consider wellness and happiness, and whether things are as good as they could be.
It’s unfortunate there is sometimes a stigma around mental health issues which can prevent people from asking for help. That shouldn’t be the case.
Introspection, noticing things could be better, and seeking a positive outcome for yourself and your loved ones is certainly not a sign of weakness and it can lead to a better life. Few of us would tolerate a physical ailment that interfered with our lives without seeking medical help. Yet millions ignore or tolerate mental health issues that diminish our lives, reduce our happiness and satisfaction, and often cause reduced financial performance.
In agriculture, producers face a number of challenges that may cause stress. From challenges from nature, such as pests, disease, inclement weather and more, to the challenges related to running a business — volatile pricing, rising input costs, marketing issues, and the stress related to managing employees. These stressors can all take a toll. Finally, there are the universal stressors we all face in life, ranging from trying to be a good spouse and parent, to managing household finances. And of course, COVID-19 has only compounded the situation.
There are resources available to support producers. Farm Credit, the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union have joined together with Michigan State University Extension and University of Illinois Extension to create Rural Resilience, a free, private, online training course to help farmers, as well as their families and neighbors, cope with this mounting stress. This course is available here.
The curriculum teaches participants to understand the sources of stress, manage their own stress, learn the warning signs of stress and suicide, identify effective communication strategies, and connect farmers and ranchers with appropriate mental health and other resources. The course is free and accessible to the public.
Specifically for Northeast producers, Farm Credit East customers and their families are eligible to access the free and confidential services of our Customer Assistance Program, available by calling 1-800-252-4555 or visiting theeap.com. Farm Credit East has contracted with the ESI Group to provide this service to our customers at no cost, 24/7. All inquiries and discussions are held in confidence.
Some additional resources include the National Farmers Union’s Farm Crisis Center and the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Farm State of Mind.
There are also some state-specific resources available:
This May, take the time to “check in” with your family, your staff, and most importantly, yourself. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the resources available if things aren’t as they should be. No one should feel alone or without the help they need.
Statistically, at least one in five adults will experience a mental health crisis at some point in their lives. If you consider those who may not have a diagnosable problem but for whom things could be better, that figure probably encompasses a majority of the population. Nearly everyone faces challenges that can impact their mental health and wellness at some point in their lives. Whether its anxiety, stress, depression, anger, frustration or just a general sense that things aren’t quite right, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. This May, make the time to take care of yourself and those you care about.