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Stress in our farming and rural communities

The following was prepared by Michael Cruse, University of Minnesota Extension Educator:

Many of our local agricultural producers are facing difficult times right now. On top of typical farm stress factors – isolation, variability in weather, lack of access the health services – farmers have also had to deal with 3-4 consecutive years of low commodity prices. These conditions are leading to a rise in mental health issues – depression, anxiety – which sadly has led to all too familiar consequences like loss of interest in family, friends and community as well as farmer suicides.

If you or someone you know needs help – be it financial counseling, spiritual guidance or just an open ear – please call or talk to someone.

Farmers often struggle to seek help for themselves. Many of us were taught to be independent and to grin and bear it when tough times come around. Please do not let your pride stand in the way of you getting the help that you need. And approaching someone – be it spouse, parent, relative or friend – who needs help can be just as challenging. What if they do not want help? How can I even tell for sure if they need help? Here are some common warning signs from Rob Holcomb, UMN Extension Educator, which may indicate that an agricultural producer needs a hand:

  • They isolate themselves
  • They abruptly sell land/livestock or their equipment/farmstead falls into disrepair Their substance use increases
  • They lack motivation, become less productive, or their mood changes
  • They use statements of hopelessness or giving up
  • Their sleep patterns are altered
  • They have unpaid bills
  • Their spouse/significant other/children exhibit stress
The most important thing is that if you see something, say something. Along with this article is a comprehensive list of phone lines, websites and other resources compiled by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that can be used by farmers and others in rural communities. And do not underestimate the power of a cup of coffee and a conversation. Taking 5 minutes out of your day to call someone may make the difference for a farmer and their family.

Resources to help. Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a brochure called “Coping with Farm and Rural Stress in Minnesota” that lists resources available to help Minnesotans.

For help for stress, anxiety, depression, anger, or feeling “stuck”:
  • Minnesota Farm & Rural Helpline: (833) 600-2670, extension 1
  • Ted Matthews, Rural Mental Health Counselor: (320) 266-2390, (search for “mental health”)
  • Mobile Crisis Teams: (search for “adult mental health phone numbers”)
  • University of Minnesota “Dealing With Stress” Website:
For help with daily living:
For business, financial or legal help:

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