Missouri farmers focused on mental health

By Garrett Hawkins
    On the farm, the “to do” list never seems to end—and only grows when the weather doesn’t cooperate. For my family, we found a small window when it was dry enough to wean calves a few weeks ago—and it has rained off and on since, delaying other much-needed work.


    Challenges such as weather are a part of farming and ranching. It’s a tough business filled with tough people—physically and mentally. Sometimes the strong heads and strong personalities that help us last in a hard business can get the better of us, though. The hours spent alone in the cab of a truck or tractor can be lonely and give our worries time and space to build upon themselves. Then we think about missed family dinners and ballgames and bills to be paid. Then Mother Nature delivers a punch like she did this May where it never seemed to dry out.
    Sometimes we simply need to catch a breath and a break. But there are times when the weight can seem too great. That’s why the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently unveiled a website called “Farm State of Mind.” There, anyone can find a directory of stress and mental health resources by state, tips for helping someone in emotional pain, ways to start a conversation and additional resources for managing stress, anxiety or depression.
    The month of May served as National Mental Health Awareness Month, which helped highlight the need for rural mental health resources. At Missouri Farm Bureau, we want to continue providing help throughout the year. On June 14, we are partnering with MU Extension for a training webinar about the “Question, Persuade, Refer” (QPR) technique for interacting with someone who might be at risk for suicide. Exclusively for Farm Bureau members, this one-hour online course will help participants recognize the warning signs for suicide and learn how to intervene. Information is available on our website, our social media platforms or through MU Extension directly.
    As farmers and ranchers, we pride ourselves on being strong and independent. That doesn’t mean we have to tackle every challenge, including mental health, on our own. We can and should support each other in getting the help—both physical and emotional—that we may need.
    If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental health concern, don’t hesitate to reach out. A healthy farm or ranch is nothing without a healthy you.
    EDITOR’S NOTE: Garrett Hawkins, a farmer from Appleton City, Missouri, is President of Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.