OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It was a growing concern before the pandemic started, and now after a tough few months, farmers and suicide continues to be an alarming issue. Those in the industry say farmers must ask for help and those that know them to reach out to check on them.
"When everything just changes, and your future is unknown, you kind of live every day without a purpose like I don't know if this even matters anymore, so that takes a toll on the psyche,” said Mike Guenther, a dairy farmer north of Omaha.
Dumping milk didn't take place at his farm, but that's not to say it hasn't been a challenging year for his product.
"The tariffs hit, and so the market went back down and then when we're finally about ready to get back up again to a break-even price at that time COVID-19 hit,” said Guenther.
One thing certain about COVID-19 is that it brought tons of uncertainty with it, including for the Guenther family farm.
"Once having a hopeful future for our kids, we don't know how much longer we'll be able to be dairy farmers,” said Guenther.
Those questions along with financial concerns are not the only issues farmers are facing, and the pandemic isn't helping matters.
"We are a tough group of people, but everyone has their breaking point,” said Lukas Fricke, a hog farmer near David City
A study in January by the CDC found that farmers are among the most likely to die by suicide than other occupations. The same study also found that overall suicide rates for farmers had increased by 40% in less than two decades, and this was all before COVID-19
"This is a situation that you couldn't have planned and marketed for, there's nothing we could have done,” said Fricke.
Fricke says it's vital for farmers to pay attention to their mental health, and not let pride get in the way.
"You got to put that pride aside, which is hard because we are very individualistic people, but it's time that people ask for help if they need help,” said Fricke.
Being in rural locations can also make some farmers feel isolated. That's why it's critical for family and friends to check on them.
"Reach out with a phone call or a text or something and say hey are you doing…they don't always show the stress, but they are feeling it right now, and if you can help in any way, they'll appreciate that,” said John of
Fricke recommends calling the rural response hotline which can provide counseling services to farmers in need. Using technology to find one of the many other resources that can help during these trying times is also a good idea.
"It's taking that ability to ask for help, and for any farmer struggling, it's not hard to find help, it's not,” said Fricke.
To contact the Rural Response Hotline:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline