Strategies for Preventing Farm/Ranch Suicides

Data shows that suicide in the United States continues to be a major health issue. Tragically, farmers and ranchers have disproportionate rates of suicide in comparison to other occupations. Some of the reasons behind this are unpredictable market prices, widening gap between operating costs and revenue, and few health care resources. There are some practical, daily strategies that can be used on the farm to help improve mental health, alleviate depression, and reduce the risk of suicide. We also need to look at how to best help the loved ones left behind.

Researchers have demonstrated that one suicide deeply impacts 25 people, and another 115 are exposed to suicide’s devastating impact. 140 people can be a significant portion of many communities in Idaho and other frontier/agricultural states.

Ask in Earnest is an online support site for farmers. They have listed a number of ways to help farmers with their general well-being. They have divided it into 4 different areas of self-care and offer tips specific to farming to help.

Sleep. The birthing of livestock, calm winds at dawn that allow for spraying, the threat of impending hail storms and many other factors can mandate the farmers forego a “regular” sleep schedule.

Nutrition. With long, hectic days, it can be easy to overlook nutrition and sacrifice good choices for convenience and speed.

Exercise. Farmers and ranchers get plenty of exercise, right? Well, most of the time, probably yes. However, it’s important to keep fitness in mind year round.

Stress Management. Unmanaged stress is severely hazardous to a farmer’s health. This can cause headache or chest pain, stomach upset, fatigue and muscle tension and more.

They also offer help for friends and family to reach out. You don’t have to be a professional mental health counselor to help save a life. Just as their name indicates, “asking in earnest” can make a difference. They have a number of tips for starting those difficult conversations and listening sessions. Connecting and getting them to talk about their plans can be a big help. Check out their website for the details of helping our local farmers and ranchers.