Take care of the farm and the farm will take care of you. That’s common advice handed down from one generation to the next.
But farmers often face stress that the farm can’t take care of, says Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri Extension health and safety specialist.
Farmers tend to put their families and farms before themselves, says Funkenbusch. But neither can function unless farmers take care of themselves physically and mentally.
For National Farm Safety Week, Sept. 18-24, Funkenbusch reminds farm and ranch families that MU Extension offers free resources to help them survive the stress of drought, uncertain economies, labor shortages, the pandemic and other issues beyond their control.
“We know this is a trying time for many,” Funkenbusch says. “Things don’t always go as planned during harvest, and farmers can find themselves worrying about a lot of things. Their mental health should not be one of them.”
Funkenbusch offers these “tune in, tune up and tune out” tips to help farmers during harvest:
• Tune in and tune out. Tune in to your body by paying attention to signs of stress. Tune out negative thoughts.
• Tune up by taking a break. Climb down from the tractor or combine and take a short break. Do something that you enjoy, even if it is only for a few minutes.
• Fine-tune daily habits. Eat correctly and get eight hours of sleep. Feed your body and soul so that you operate safely.
• Tune in to family and friends who express concern about you. If they are noticing changes in your daily habits and appearance, it is time to consider seeking help.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s new AgriStress Helpline also offers free, confidential help to farmers and their families. Producers can call or text 833-897-2474 to speak to a health care professional. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn more at agriculture.mo.gov/stress.php. NIFA awarded the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network grant to MDA to support distribution of mental health resources and training through MU Extension.
MU Extension, through a North Central Region Farm and Ranch Assistance Network federal grant, is part of Iowa Concern, which provides stress counselors, an attorney for legal education, information and referral services for farm families. The toll-free number is 800-447-1985.
The 24-hour National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides free, confidential services. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 or go to 988lifeline.org.
Find other resources in the MU Extension and Show-Me Farm Safety Mental Health Toolkit at muext.us/MHtoolkit.
Printable information sheet (PDF):