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High suicide rates and mental health issues big concern in farming, ranching communities

Economic uncertainty, lack of health insurance are problems for ag producers
Posted at 4:16 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 17:16:36-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — “In many ways, the understanding of agriculture and mental health is lagging behind the understanding of mental health in other occupations,” said Dr. Michael Rosmann, a clinical psychologist and farmer.

Farming is a demanding and stressful industry.

According to USA Today, American farmers produce nearly all of the country’s food, contributing about $133 billion each year to the GDP.

Rosmann believes the most successful farmers tolerate adversity, take risks and have the capacity to work alone.

“These factors are the very same factors that, while they enhance them as successful farmers, they can work against them during episodes of stress,” said Rosmann.

The need for mental healthcare grows during times of economic strain on farms and during times of great uncertainty — caused by factors like weather, market prices and disease outbreaks.

“We have become aware that the agricultural population has one of the highest rates of suicide among all occupations in our country, and for that matter, around the world,” said Rosmann.

Unless you’re embedded in farming and ranching culture, it’s hard to truly comprehend what they go through. And this makes all the difference when it comes to someone in the industry seeking help.

“Confidential telephone hotlines and helplines work to assist the agriculture population with seeking help. They are willing to talk on the phone if the person at the other end understands agriculture,” said Rosmann.

“We respond to over three to five hundred phone calls a month. Right now, since the voucher program has been so popular, it’s been seen more to that 500 area,” said Michelle Soll, the Farm and Ranch Program Director with Legal Aid of Nebraska.

The program maintains the Rural Response Hotline, which provides various services to farm, ranch and rural families.

Through the hotline eligible people can access free mental health vouchers — setting them up with counselors, virtually or in person, who know the industry.

“Health insurance is a large factor with farmers and ranchers. They don’t always have jobs that have health insurance. So I think that the voucher program is really important,” said Soll.

It’s a resource that meets an important need for those who we depend on every day.

“Farming and ranching isn’t such a negative industry. It’s a fun-loving occupation. There is sometimes, there’s a lot of stress and sometimes it can get pretty intense,” said Soll.

For more information on the Rural Response Hotline, call 1-800-464-0258 or visit this website.

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