By Harry Brook
Farming is a very stressful occupation and is one of the few businesses where you have no control over the biggest factor determining success. Weather. You can do everything right, according to the book, yet, if the weather doesn’t cooperate, as it didn’t this year with moisture, the crop can be a failure. The blow was softened a bit this year by the remarkable run up in prices. However, it does not change the extreme stress related to farming and the financial burden required to fund putting a crop in and taking it off.
Farming is often a solitary occupation, where the producer will work alone for long periods. When you add the extra stress of uncertain crop yields and markets, as well as the huge financial investment in the crop, it can feel overwhelming at times. Despite what it might feel like, producers are not alone in this.
There are a number of resources out there that specifically address the problems that farmers have to face. One resource is the Do More Agriculture Foundation. On their website, The Do More Agriculture Foundation (domore.ag), they have compiled a list of resources to help producers who need some help or just need to talk to someone. Being the strong, silent type is not necessarily healthy for your mental state of mind.
The Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta has recognized this is a problem and is also working on an Alberta Farm Mental Health Network. They are trying to identify and fill gaps in support, connecting people, projects and programs, as well as providing feedback to government and funders. They are trying to improve the collaboration and coordination of different groups.
How does stress affect you or how do you know if stress is causing problems? Are you withdrawing, not wanting to eat, constantly worrying? Included in the list are not sleeping well, being stuck thinking about the same thing constantly, and not being able to enjoy other things in life. People who are not usually irritable might be short-tempered. Unwilling to socialize and become withdrawn are signs.
Probably the biggest barrier to getting help is the stigma that is perceived in rural areas. It is hard to be anonymous in rural areas where everyone knows everyone else. Luckily, the issue of looking after mental health is becoming recognized as important rurally as well as in urban areas.
Physical exercise often helps with mood and relieve anxiety and it can provide a distraction from worries. Talking to someone can help as a burden shared is a burden halved. Socializing can be a good way to relieve stress.
Mental health covers so much more than just your mood. It affects a person physically as well as your thinking processes. Hopefully, as a society, we are recognizing the unique challenges that farming presents to our individual farmer and now you can find help easily if you need it. Sometimes, you need a little help to have a healthy mind and healthy body.
Harry Brook is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 780-384-4138.