Drought Poses Mental Health Problems For Farmers

Farming is stressful enough in a normal year, but add a months-long drought and many producers could be vulnerable to mental and behavioral health problems, says a mental health expert and former Purdue University assistant professor of nursing.

The emotional strain of watching their crops wither and livestock feed prices soar could cause farmers to slip into deep depression, substance abuse and even thoughts of suicide, said Roberta Schweitzer. She urged farmers to get help dealing with their stress if they feel helpless and hopeless.

“I grew up on a family farm, and you get used to the stressful times of the year, and then it relaxes a bit,” Schweitzer said. “But when you have a big trauma like the drought, it makes it that much harder on a farmer because more and more stress is piled on top of what they already have to deal with, and it challenges their coping skills.”

Schweitzer, who recently teamed with the Purdue-based Indiana AgrAbility Project to present a webinar on drought-related mental health issues, said the independent nature of farmers makes them less prone to talk about their emotional struggles or seek counseling than city dwellers.

“Farmers often feel responsible for getting everything done and being in control of everything, and in a case like the drought, you’re not in control,” she said. “There’s a stigma attached to mental illness, and farmers don’t want to be identified with that. They like to think they’re able to function and take care of their families.”

Those attitudes can have dire consequences. A study by Texas A&M University identified mental health disorders as the fourth highest health concern among rural residents surveyed. Also, a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine revealed suicide rates of 42-58 per 100,000 farmers and ranchers – higher than the general population – while research by the University of Maryland indicated that 41 percent of rural women reported depression or anxious feelings, compared with 20 percent of urban women.

Farmers often aren’t aware when stress is harming their mental condition, or they ignore the signs and expect it to pass, Schweitzer said. In those situations, family members and friends might need to step in to help the farmer get the help he or she needs.

“If someone is depressed, they may be withdrawing, not taking care of themselves, not eating properly, sleeping all the time, starting to drink or use drugs, and pretty much giving up,” Schweitzer said. “If someone is in that position, you’ll want them to know that you are concerned and offer to help them be assessed for suicide risk because there’s the potential of that occurring.”

Stress management can stop negative emotions from becoming serious mental health problems, Schweitzer said. She recommended the following:

  • Good health habits, including proper nutrition, exercise and adequate rest.
  • Quality time with family and friends.
  • Identifying personal stress “triggers” and activities that can provide relief.

“Another thing to do is make a list of what in your life you have control of and what you can’t control,” Schweitzer said. “If you can do something about those things on the list, then do it. If you can’t do anything – and the drought falls into that category – then don’t beat yourself up over it.

“Not being able to do something doesn’t mean you are weak or incapable. It means you’re human.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

ManagementConsolidation hits and a miss; And a look at China’s challenges
August 28, 2015
As Monsanto suspends its pursuit of Syngenta, consolidation news at the retail and distribution level heats up. CropLife magazine’s Executive Read More
ManagementCrop Conditions In Minnesota and Traveling Time
August 21, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiilgoj discuss the crop outlook from a field trip to Minnesota and upcoming travel plans. Read More
ManagementCF Industries/CHS Deal & More Water Issues
August 14, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the recent fertilizer arrangement between CF Industries and CHS and look at the Read More
Corn Field
ManagementSurvey: Farm Income Drops While Land Values Hold Steady In Midwest, Mid-South
August 13, 2015
After an excessively wet spring that hindered planting of crops in parts of the Midwest and ongoing weakness in grain Read More
Top 100 Articles
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Hosting Drone Flight This Friday
August 3, 2015
Southern States Cooperative — No. 9 on the CropLife 100 — is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms Read More
CropLife 100Aligned Ag Distributors Adds Four New Owners
July 30, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC has announced the addition of four new customer/owners to Franklin Holding Co. LLC. They are: The Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Purchases California-Based Specialty Crops Retailer
July 20, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings has successfully acquired California-based NH3 Service Co.  Operating as part of Pinnacle’s Performance Agriculture brand, the new locations Read More
Asmus Farm Supply liquid fertilizer facility features 20,000 square feet
CropLife 100Slideshow: Asmus Farm Supply Shows Off Its New Liquid Fertilizer Facility
July 15, 2015
Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA, recently added a new liquid fertilizer facility to its company operations. The new liquid fertilizer Read More
Latest News
EquipmentDeere Announces Soucy Track Distribution Alliance
August 28, 2015
John Deere announces an alliance with Soucy Track to sell and distribute products through the John Deere dealer channel. “This Read More
FertilizerFall-Applied Phosphorus: A Rooted Investment
August 28, 2015
As commodity prices decrease and input prices continue to rise, farmers are seeking more efficient strategies for meeting a high Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsWhat’s Next For Monsanto, Syngenta?
August 28, 2015
After dropping its $47 billion bid to take over Swiss agribusiness firm Syngenta, Monsanto may be turning its focus to Read More
Golden Harvest Corn stalks
Crop InputsMonsanto: Syngenta Not The Only Horse In Crop Protectio…
August 28, 2015
Monsanto Co, having ditched an audacious $46 billion (£30 billion) offer for Syngenta AG, may downshift to a humbler strategy Read More
ManagementConsolidation hits and a miss; And a look at China’s ch…
August 28, 2015
As Monsanto suspends its pursuit of Syngenta, consolidation news at the retail and distribution level heats up. CropLife magazine’s Executive Read More
Corn Field
MicronutrientsHuma Gro Introduces New Boron Liquid Nutrient Formulati…
August 28, 2015
BORO-MAX, a new boron (B) 10% liquid nutrient formulation, has been added to the Huma Gro product line. This new Read More
Crop InputsNFU: Monsanto Decision To Withdraw Syngenta Bid ‘…
August 26, 2015
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said the organization was very pleased by the news that Monsanto has withdrawn Read More
Crop InputsMonsanto Withdraws Bid For Syngenta
August 26, 2015
Monsanto Co. abandoned its latest effort to acquire Syngenta AG, the world’s top maker of pesticides, after a sweetened bid Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsSyngenta Comments On Monsanto Announcement
August 26, 2015
The Board of Syngenta confirms that it received a verbal proposal from Monsanto to acquire the company at a price Read More
Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer
EquipmentHigh-powered Case IH Patriot 2250 Sprayer Pushes Throug…
August 26, 2015
Engineered with more muscle, the new 660-gallon-capacity Patriot 2250 sprayer features best-in-class horsepower, along with the fuel efficiency that comes Read More
Crop InputsLand ‘O Lakes, United Suppliers Finalize Merger
August 24, 2015
According to a press release on August 24, owners of United Suppliers, Inc. and members of Land O’Lakes, Inc. “have Read More
TMX-2050 In-Cab Display Launch Run Screen
Eric SfiligojPrecision Ag Could Shine In Increased Spotlight On Agri…
August 24, 2015
By any measure, 2015 is turning into one of the most challenging years agriculture has ever experienced. All throughout good Read More
ManagementCrop Conditions In Minnesota and Traveling Time
August 21, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiilgoj discuss the crop outlook from a field trip to Minnesota and upcoming travel plans. Read More
HerbicidesREUTERS: Anti-GMO ‘Scientist’ Calls For New…
August 20, 2015
EDITORS NOTE: We feel that it is important to note that there are those that believe one of the lead Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Announces Seedcare Application And Resource Ce…
August 19, 2015
Syngenta recently announced the Seedcare Application and Resource Center, a collaborative new website designed exclusively for Syngenta Seedcare customers to Read More
Winter Wheat
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Announces Two New Regional Sales Man…
August 19, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced Steve Vining and Phil Reding have each accepted new positions as Regional Sales Managers. Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Iowa Cooperatives To Explore Unification
August 19, 2015
The boards of directors at two of Iowa’s leading farmer-owned cooperatives yesterday signed a letter of intent to study the Read More
Golden Harvest Corn healthy leaves
Industry NewsAligned Ag Distributors Names Vice President, Crop Prot…
August 18, 2015
Aligned Ag Distributors LLC have appointed Warren Hragyil to VP Crop Protection. Hragyil comes to Aligned Ag Distributors LLC with Read More