Farming is a high-stress occupation, and that’s without a global pandemic. And unfortunately, those stresses too often lead to thoughts of suicide for agriculture workers and their employers.
A recently announced $7 million Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant from the USDA will expand the farmer suicide prevention work done by Washington State University Extension to 13 western states and four U.S. territories.
Don McMoran, with the WSU Extension leads the program, and notes the current numbers are unreal.
“One in five people are going to suffer from some sort of a mental health breakdown, if you will, so it’s really important for us within the local community to be able to realize those things are going to happen and then be able to break down the stigmas associated with them and get some folks some help.”
McMoran and Extension got involved with a pilot program in 2019. He said seeking assistance on the farm make sense, so why not when it comes to stress or mental health issues.
“If you have a cow that’s pregnant and it’s going to calf, and that cow is having difficulties, you’re going to do everything in your power as a farmer, as a rancher, to be able to help that animal out, but at some point in time you’re going to get to a point where maybe your expertise runs out and you need to call an expert. And I think mental health is no different. We have to realize that at some point we’re past our ability to help ourselves and it’s OK to pick up the phone, to go see a counselor and get some additional help.”
McMoran says they’ve gotten good feedback about the expanded service they are now offering.