Mental health stigma is beginning to decrease among rural residents

Mental health
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Farmers and rural dwellers are beginning to feel more comfortable speaking up about their mental health issues and seeking help for them.

according to a new research survey published in December by the American Farm Bureau Federation, 83 percent of rural adults and 92 percent of rural workers said that when dealing with stress or a mental illness, they would like to talk to a friend or family member about solutions. In addition, the number of farmers and farm workers who said they would like to talk to friends and family has increased by 22 percent since April 2019.

Almost half of rural adults and 44 percent of farmers and farm workers said they find it easier to talk to their doctor about these personal issues compared to a year ago.

“It’s encouraging to hear that people in rural communities are more likely to seek help when needed,” said Dana Fisher, Chair of the Agricultural Safety Advisory Committee of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being to protect our farmers and their families.”

The survey, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AFBF, surveyed 2,000 rural adults across the country. The results were compared to 2019 and 2020 AFBF surveys that analyzed trends in farmers’ mental health and related stigma.

Raising farmer stress and mental health awareness is a priority for farming organizations, as elevated levels of stress and poor mental health can lead to physical health problems and even poor decisions, increasing the risk of on-farm accidents.

Financial problems, natural disasters and the agricultural economy are some of the major issues affecting the stress and mental health of farmers and farm workers.

But while mental health stigma appears to be decreasing overall, it is still a problem in farming communities. The AFBF survey found that 59 percent of rural adults said there was still some stigma associated with stress and mental health in agriculture, including 63 percent of farm workers.

The stigma associated with mental health can be a barrier to those who need help.

“This poll shows we’re making a difference, but we still have work to do,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It’s up to all of us to continue to look after our family, friends and neighbors and let them know that they are not alone as they feel the increasing stress that comes with the day-to-day business of farming and raising livestock.”

For information on crisis hotlines, treatment locations, and tips on how to manage stress or support those in emotional pain, visit the Farm State of Mind website at farmstateofmind.org.

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