Editor’s note: The following was written by Susan Harris-Broomfield, University of Nebraska Extension educator for rural health, wellness, and safety, for the university’s Crop Watch website.
Stress has become a fact of life for farm families. Several factors are behind this: low commodity prices, the shifting international trade outlook and damage and obstacles created by storms, floods and other natural disasters.
But there are resources to help farm families address problems caused by stress.
Stress can be positive, giving us a competitive edge. However, when that stress turns into negative distress, it is no longer healthy for our well-being.
Farming is among the most stressful jobs in America, based on factors that affect a farmer’s financial, physical and mental health, according to John Shutske, professor and extension specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with over 30 years of experience with the agricultural community.
A 2016 study showed that people involved in agriculture have the highest overall rate of suicide among all occupational groups, with their suicide rate being almost 60% higher than the next closest industry.
Shutske says stress is a double-edged sword. A little stress can serve as a constructive motivator, pushing us to action. However, too much stress can damage our health, compromise safety and sabotage personal relationships. It reduces our capacity to consider and evaluate optional solutions to complex problems and can limit our power to make sound decisions.
When somebody shows symptoms of stress, such as moodiness, anger, loneliness, anxiety, lack of energy, sleep deprivation, low self-esteem, constant worrying, forgetfulness, overeating, or increased use of alcohol or drugs, it might be time to talk to someone about it.
The Iowa Concern Hotline is a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week free, confidential resource for anyone with concerns or questions about farm finances, crisis and disaster response and personal health issues. Access to an attorney is also available to help provide legal education.
When someone calls the Iowa Concern Hotline’s toll-free number (800-447-1985), trained specialists provide immediate support to either answer questions directly or get the caller in touch with experts who can provide additional information or support.