4-H relief work 4

Rianna Chaney, 13, of Elwood, Neb., dons a pair of leather gloves donated by local businesses in Lexington and Elwood. The leather gloves that all of the kids wore were the only thing that protected them while wrapping the burned barb wire fence.

A strong majority of farmers say financial issues, farm or business problems and fear of losing the farm impact their mental health, according to a new national Morning Consult research poll.

Sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation in recognition of May as Mental Health Month, the poll surveyed rural adults, farmers and farmworkers to better understand factors affecting the mental health of farmers, availability of resources, perceptions of stigma, personal experiences with mental health challenges and other relevant issues.

"We all know how stressful farm life can be, and things are even tougher now because of the farm economy. More of us are affected, either directly or by having a friend or family member in distress. This poll proves what we already knew anecdotally: Rural America is hurting not just economically but also emotionally," Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a news release. "Even as the rest of the economy has boomed, farmers and ranchers are in year six of a widespread commodity-price slump. We can and must do more to address farmer stress and mental health issues in rural America."

Farmers and farmworkers surveyed listed the big factors impacting their mental health: financial issues (91 percent), farm or business problems (88 percent) and fear of losing the farm (87 percent). Other factors included stress, weather, the economy, isolation and social stigma.

A strong majority of rural adults (91 percent) said mental health is important to them and their family, while 82 percent of farmers or farmworkers said the same. Polling found that a majority of rural adults have either personally sought care (31 percent) or have a family member (24 percent) who has sought care for a mental health condition.

Three in four rural adults (75 percent) said it's important to reduce stigma about mental health in the agriculture community, while two in three farmers/farmworkers (66 percent) said the same.

Large majorities of rural Americans polled agreed that cost, social stigma and embarrassment would make it harder for them to seek help or treatment for mental health conditions.

Highlighting the need for awareness and training, the survey showed that farmers and farmworkers are less likely than rural adults in general to be confident that they would be able to spot the warning signs of a mental health condition (55 versus 73 percent).

Farm Bureau is advocating for programs that provide America's farmers and ranchers with critical support and mental health resources and is urging Congress to fund $10 million for the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, the level authorized in the 2018 farm bill.

Avera offers a 24-hour Farm Crisis Hotline at 800-691-4336.