Why Are America’s Farmers Killing Themselves in Record Numbers?
January 12, 2018
Farmers have among the highest suicide rates of any occupational group in the U.S. A 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate among agricultural workers in 17 states was five times higher than in the general population. Experts suggest that financial stress, limited access to mental health services, and a reluctance to seek help could be associated with the elevated risk of suicide among farmers. Iowa farmer and psychologist Mike Rosmann has spent decades trying to better understand and address suicide risk in this population. “Farming has always been a stressful occupation because many of the factors that affect agricultural production are largely beyond the control of the producers,” he wrote in the journal Behavioral Healthcare. “The emotional well-being of family farmers and ranchers is intimately intertwined with these changes.” According to Rossman, access to confidential crisis services and culturally competent mental health care is key to preventing suicide in agricultural populations. “If you go to a therapist who may know about therapy but doesn’t understand farming, the therapist might say, ‘Take a vacation—that’s the best thing you can do.’ And the farmer will say, ‘But my cows aren’t on a five-day-a-week schedule.’”
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