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Stresses of farming can lead to mental health challenges
Indiana AgriNews - 1/30/2018
By Erica Quinlan
WESTFIELD, Ind. -- Stress, anxiety, depression and other mental struggles are common problems for farmers and ranchers.
Farming ranks within the top 10 most stressful jobs in the U.S., according to Roberta Schweitzer, nurse at Body, Mind and Spirit Wellness Center in Westfield.
"Stress can build up overtime and can result in something called stress overload," she said. "When that happens, there are physical and emotional changes in our body.
"Physically, some people get a fast heart rate, they get shaky. Some might cry or be angry. You may have trouble to remember items. Behaviorally, you may end up sleeping a lot or depending on alcohol. Stress response looks different for different people."
If you don't listen and pay attention to your body, you can build stress responses to the point where they become overloaded, Schweitzer said.
That's when you start having difficulty functioning in daily life.
"It can result in things like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and actions and other mental disorders," Schweitzer said. "Farm and rural people are not exempt from those, and sometimes we don't pay enough attention."
Ag-specific stressors include:
n Lack of control over circumstances.
n Rising expenses.
n Machinery breakdown.
n Time pressure.
n Farm viability.
n Pain from injuries, illness or hard labor.
It can be difficult for people to reach out for help, said Schweitzer. And with a limited number of mental health professionals in rural areas, there may not always be resources nearby.
The Mental Health First Aid Program helps to fill that void in communities.
"We hope to increase wellness in those communities -- not just physical, but mental," Schweitzer said.
"They (at the program) acknowledge that there are many strengths in rural areas, such as close-knit families, sense of community, depending on each other, etc. They want to build on that strength.
"When you take a class for the program, you learn about what mental health is. It can help reduce the stigma, the negative ideas and perceptions, about mental health."
The eight-hour class is meant for anyone in the community who is interested in learning about the risk factors and warning signs of mental illness.
"You're not a therapist, you don't diagnose and you don't provide counseling -- you're just there as a support person from your community," Schweitzer said. "It's at a basic level, but it's very powerful."
To learn more, visit www.meantalhealthfirstaid.org.
"The most important thing you can do to help someone is to listen without any judgment," Schweitzer said. "Let them express what they're feeling. You can then give resources and information as needed."
Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.