Suicide hotline billboard

DES MOINES — Stress can be a killer, and “we know farming is stressful.” That is the first part of the message Dr. David Brown, human sciences specialist at Iowa State University, offers when talking to farmers. The second part involves coping with that stress.

Brown spoke at the June 28 economic summit sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. His message was aimed at those who come into contact with farmers who may be stressed. There are warning signs to watch for and help that can be offered, Brown said.

The key is to pay attention to the signs and to care enough to do something to help, he said.

First of all, Brown said, there are many signs of stress, depression and potential suicide. They include isolation, having few friends, impatience or anger, anxiety or fearfulness, excessive food or alcohol intake, difficulty concentrating and an increase in accidents or injuries.

It is especially important to pay attention if the person begins showing rage, talking about seeking revenge or posting things about death or suicide on social media, Brown said. Other danger signs include dramatic change in mood, expressing no sense of purpose or talk of being trapped.

If the person starts giving items away, seeking access to a gun or actually threatens to kill himself or herself, it is time to seek immediate help.

In those cases the acronym CORN is worth remembering, Brown said. It means care, offer support or help, refer them to help and never leave them alone.

There is a national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. For cases of stress that may not be suicidal, the Iowa Concerns Hotline at 1-800-447-1985 may be helpful. In some cases it may be necessary to call 911. Once the person is at the hospital, health professionals will make sure they get some type of help.

For those who are under stress, Brown said it is key to find ways to cope or to work off the stress. That can be through exercise, getting the right amount of sleep and eating balanced meals. For couples, a simple date night can work wonders, he said. And finding a health professional can be very important.

That last item is a challenge in many rural areas, Brown added, where health care or mental health care can be distant and difficult to access.

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Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.