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Sowing the seeds of mental health

Alliance to address problems farmers might face

To take the survey, click here.

Weather, rising prices and costs of doing business, long hours and the weight of keeping the family farm in business can cause high stress and take a toll on a farmer’s mental well-being.

A new alliance will focus on mental health in agriculture to ensure Ohio’s farmers, families, and communities are better equipped to deal with such stress.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, The Ohio State University, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, and Farm Credit Mid-America make up the new Ohio Agricultural Mental Health Alliance.

The group’s first action is introducing a new, anonymous survey to seek feedback directly from rural communities.

Food and agriculture make up Ohio’s No. 1 industry.

“Ohioans look out for one another,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “This survey will provide valuable help to numerous communities. I urge our farmers and beyond to answer these tough but necessary questions. You won’t only be helping yourself; you’ll be helping your family and friends.”

“Farmer mental health is such an important issue that is often overlooked until we read about someone we know, or someone in the community, affected by tragedy,” ODA Director Brian Baldridge said. “Our goal is to lift up every farmer, family and neighborhood, and let them know we are here for them.”

The survey aims to gauge stress and how it’s being dealt with. OSU created the survey in partnership with OhioMHAS and ODH.

“Farming communities face different types of stress than those in other occupations, and oftentimes our mental health counselors are unsure of how to handle questions and concerns related to farming,” said Cathann Kress, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. “This survey will help us all better understand the needs of our farming community and allow us to develop programming to meet the needs of all Ohioans.”

“Farm stress and mental health has been something that has been talked about in whispers for generations and it is time to turn up the volume about it,” Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau, said. “This survey will not only shed light on what is causing stress and how those who are struggling with those stressors cope, it will also bring more awareness to this very important issue and help to provide adequate resources to our rural communities.”

OAMHA will use survey results to determine where resources are needed and help ensure support is available to communities in need.

“We know that Ohioans working in the agricultural industry experience many challenges that impact their mental health, yet, to date, we have very little data to guide our efforts,” OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss said.

“This new survey is an opportunity for those in the industry to share their perspectives about their mental health concerns and have a voice in guiding the development of better support for the mental well-being of Ohio’s agricultural families.”

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides residents with one number to call when they or someone they know is in crisis. On average, more than 12,000 Ohioans per month who are experiencing or affected by suicidal, mental health and/or substance use crises have used the lifeline to receive free, 24/7, confidential support and connections to local resources.

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