Taking Care of your Mental Health - Tips for Farmers

Man holding his head in his hands
We all depend on farmers. Farm Families are the backbone of America, but often can feel unsupported and alone, and the stress piles up. We hope to start a conversation across the whole agriculture community focused on supporting farmer’s mental health. 
 

Self-Care for Farmers Tip #7

Self care is not selfish and it does not need to be an elaborate process. A simple walk, turning off a device, stepping away from your computer, taking a deep breath.

Self-Care for Farmers Tip #6 - BACK to BASICS

  • How do you integrate physical wellness on your farm? Do you or your crew practice yoga, or pre-harvest group stretching? The National AgrAbility program works with farmers with disabilities, and has a BACK TO BASICS Exercises for Lower Back Injury Prevention poster here: 
  •  http://www.agrability.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/LOWER-BACK-POSTER.pdf
  • Can you integrate a daily stretching program into your farm day? Maybe when you rise in the morning, while drinking your morning coffee, or to wrap the day. Encourage your crew to practice a daily stretching routine to keep them strong and healthy throughout the season. 
Farming with Chronic Back Pain - Excerpt from Ohio State Extension factsheet:
Several measures can be taken to reduce the risk of a back injury. Many tasks can be modified to relieve stress placed on the back. These may include:
  •  Avoid working in awkward positions or standing for long periods of time.
  •  When changing directions turn with the feet, not at the waist, to avoid a twisting motion.
  •  Wear boots with high-quality insoles to support the ankles and reduce back pain.
  •  Use correct lifting posture every time. Use your legs to lift, instead of your back.
  •  When carrying items keep them close to your body and make more trips carrying smaller loads.
  •  Limit repetitive tasks and chores involving poor posture. Alternating this type of task with less strenuous tasks can be effective at preventing back injuries.
  •  Use long-handled tools to increase leverage and reduce the need to bend or reach.
  •  "Push" rather than "pull" objects.
  •  Carts and wheelbarrows are efficient when feeding animals or hauling heavy tools.
  •  When in the tractor seat, adjust the seat to position your thighs parallel to the floor.
  •  Consider installing mirrors or cameras in equipment to reduce the need to turn.
  •  Replace older equipment seat cushions with new ones that have adjustable lumbar support, arm rests and adjustable thigh support.
  •  Modify tasks or work methods to reduce the number of times needed to get on and off equipment.
  •  Minimize stumbling or fall hazards by practicing good housekeeping methods in all areas of the farm. This includes keeping tractor platforms clear of tools and clutter. (Source: Ohio State Extension)

Self-Care for Farmers Tip #5

Is there a community mental health center in my area, or a national hotline I can call? Yes, we have a guide compiled to help identify resources for you: https://extension.unh.edu/mentalhealth
Including a crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741 https://www.crisistextline.org/ 
Text with a trained counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
 

Self-Care for Farmers Tip #4

There is little safety net for farmers, especially when it comes to mental health. How can we as an agriculture community support each other thru this and push past mental heath stigmas. No farmer should be afraid to say “I need help” because the mental health stigmas in our society. 
Learn about National Farm Bureau's Rural Resilience Initiative here: https://www.fb.org/programs/rural-resilience/
 
Sometimes we need help, that does not mean failure. 

Five Steps to Help Someone at Risk (from American Farm Bureau Rural Resilience Program)

  1. Ask
  2. Keep them safe
  3. Be there
  4. Help them connect
  5. Follow up

Self-Care for Farmers Tip #3

Depression affects one out of five farmers.

Breaking down the stigma: Depression or expressing feelings of helplessness do not align with the traditional image of a farmer. Our strong values of independence and self sufficiency can make it challenging to reach out for help.
Add to that, these topics are hard to talk about, and as peers we may feel uncomfortable asking how someone is doing. If a farm friend broke their leg, we know we would be there to help them get in the last of their hay, but would we react that way if the same farm friend didn’t go to work because they were experiencing feelings of depression or despair?  Would we step in then, when the farmer is unlikely to ask for help?
Let us not be afraid to provide help and support to each other in these unusual times, weather we are agriculture service providers, farmers or farm supporters. 

Self-Care for Farmers Tip #2

Feeling alone? Like the stress is piling up and crushing you? We hope to start a conversation across the whole agriculture community focused on supporting farmer’s mental health.
 
Check out this Mental Health Checklist on the Signs of Farm and Ranch Stress from Colorado State University. Be proactive to keep up your mental health! This may mean scheduling it into your farm's schedule.
  • Turn off your devices
  • Connect with family or friends over the phone or video chat
  • Pick a routine and stick to it
  • Go for a walk
  • Stretch, sleep, relax
  • Eat healthy meals

Self-Care for Farmers Tip #1

We KNOW the stress that farm families face is unique. Please know that we in Extension are here for you, to help when you need it. We work with families all the time to review income statements, assist in farm transfer, consult on crop production. We are happy to be a listening ear and provide support however we can. For additional help:
NH Agriculture Mediation Program provides free mediation services to the agricultural community to help resolve disputes before they end up in court.

For additional help:

  • NH Agriculture Mediation Program provides free mediation services to the agricultural community to help resolve disputes before they end up in court.

Dial 2-1-1, If you or someone you know are feeling overwhelmed and need help

211 NH is available 24 hours, 365 days a year. Multilingual assistance and TDD access is also available. For those outside of New Hampshire, call 1.866.444.4211.

https://www.211nh.org/