COVID-19 has certainly depressed the economy these last two months, but in rural America the state of the farm economy had already taken a toll on farm families. Only time will tell if the toll in terms of farm suicides multiplies.
Tonya Short is Extension Educator in Health and Human Sciences for Purdue in Knox County. She says as tough as farmers are, this has been a difficult storm to weather.
“You talk to any ag economist and things have been tough for our farm families for several years in a row, and then 2019 was just kind of a blockbuster to cap it all off,” she told HAT recently. “So, we’re seeing a lot of strain on these families, a lot of financial losses because of the crop damage that we saw with the floods last year. What is that doing to the emotional tenacity that we know our farmers to have. If I ask farmers to describe themselves, they’ll say I’m hardheaded and stubborn.”
Farmers have personified the phrase “lift yourself up by the bootstraps.” Their mentality is to do it by themselves and just fix whatever problems come along. Short also says there is just a natural societal pressure on men, making it even harder to take steps seeking help.
“They might not feel like it’s ok to say I am so stressed beyond the point of being able to function properly, like I need to talk to someone. So, I’m here to challenge folks to think about those things, and ask why don’t I think that my life is valuable enough to reach out for help?”
Some of the signs that you might need help?
“If I’m in that place where I can’t enjoy my day to day life, or my family or my personal life isn’t what it used to be, or my farm isn’t what it used to be.”
Short says a strong, dependable support system is a good place to turn initially. But eventually professional help might be needed and can be very helpful.
“On the verge of a crisis or contemplating suicide, you don’t have to wait until it gets to that point,” she explained. “If you’re even just questioning, I feel like I’m stuck, I’m struggling, I need to talk to someone, call. They can point you in the right direction. They can help give you resources. They can help validate your feelings, which is sometimes all we need, for someone to say it’s ok to feel not ok, let’s talk through this.”
Short has professional resource information for Knox County, and you’re encouraged to reach out to your county Extension office for local resources.
Tonya Short presented a farm stress program in Vincennes at the Farm Profit Preview back in January.