Farm stress and wellness resources

Farming is one of the most stressful professions with so many uncontrollable variables. Farmers are constantly exposed to situations that can pose a risk to their physical, mental, spiritual, and financial health.

The following types of risks farmers encounter have been adapted from the United States Department of Agriculture- Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) “Risk in Agriculture”:

— Human or personal risks involve problems with health or personal relationships that directly impact the farm business. For example, an incident that could lead to death, injuries or illness may happen while driving a tractor or during pesticide transport and mixing. Situations that affect our personal life, like a divorce or alcohol abuse can take a heavy toll on our mental health putting strain on the farm operation and the business at risk.

— Production risks refer to abiotic and biotic factors that directly affect crop and livestock growth and development, including extreme weather events, diseases and insect pests.

— Price or market risks derive from the uncertainty that surrounds input costs and the prices farmers will receive for their products.

— Financial risks are a consequence of rising interest rates, restricted access to credit, employees, and when farmers are in deep debt.

— Institutional risks include government decisions that have a direct impact on the business, for examples, tax laws, changing regulations for chemical use or animal waste disposal.

Farmers are independent and private, characteristics that sometimes represent a barrier to acknowledging farm stress, but everyone encounters stress. However, all the aforementioned risks may cause farmers and their family members to experience anxiety, loneliness, depression, emotional outbursts, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. If you, a family member or somebody you know is going through a difficult situation and may need some additional help through a crisis, the following resources are available:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides free and confidential support for people in distress 24/7. For people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have hearing loss there is a chat option in their website, and they provide services for veterans through the Veterans Crisis Line (send a text message to 838255).

The Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services offers resources from the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) for mental and substance use disorder. The services provided are through the PA Support & Referral Helpline 1-855-284-2494 (TTY: 724-631-5600) and the Crisis Text Line (text PA to 741741).

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides support though the SAMHSA’s National Help Line (1-800-662-4357) which is also a free and confidential information service (24/7, 365 days per year) in English and Spanish for individuals or family members facing substance use disorders or requiring mental health support.

The Crisis Text Line provides support to those experiencing a crisis. This is a free service that will connect you with a trained Crisis Counselor when you text 741741 from anywhere in the United States.

If you would like to learn more about farm stress, Michigan State University (https://www.canr.msu.edu/managing–farm–stress/) offers a free online course called “Rural Resilience: Farm Stress Training,” in addition to articles and webinars about managing farm stress.

Feel free to contact Adriana Murillo-Williams via email (axm1119@psu.edu) or text 814-360-5517 if you would like to receive more information about this topic.


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