Taking stock of our mental and emotional well-being – Wisconsin State Farmer

Posted: May 29, 2020 at 5:47 pm


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Stephanie Plaster Published 9:32 p.m. CT May 27, 2020

As farmers and agricultural providers, sometimes a family member, neighbor or client needs support that we are not able to provide. In these instances, it's okay to share resources or referrals for them to get the support they need.(Photo: Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

As May comes to a close, we have the opportunity to reflect back on one of the most tumultuous springs weve had and determine the best way to move forward.Since May is Mental Health Month and the start of the new growing season, it is a good time to take a brief moment to take stock of our mental and emotional well-being and find any support needed for ourselves and others.

Farming can be a high stress endeavor. Some of the common stressors include: financial pressures and debt load, dependence on unpredictable weather and volatile markets; extreme outdoor work conditions; lack of personal time or little time to talk through difficult problems due to excessive workloads; intergenerational differences; health, pain, fatigue or mobility issues connected to years of physical labor; strained family relationships (Shutske, 2017).

Because farming can be difficult for individuals and families, many experience financial and emotional stress as a result. There are several signs that may indicate an individual may be in need of help. These signs include: changes in daily routines, increases in upper respiratory illnesses or other chronic conditions (aches, pains, persistent cough), declines in appearance of farmstead, declines in care of livestock, increases in farm accidents due to fatigue or loss of ability to concentrate, occurrences of signs of stress in children (Williams, Farm Family Stress). Stress can also lead to mental health problems.

According to Mental Health First Aid, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood through adulthood, and mental health problems are more common than heart disease, lung disease and cancer, combined. One in five individuals has mental health complications, including farmers.Services and programs like the National Alliance on Mental Health, Mental Health America, the WI Farm Center, Farm Aid Hotline, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are all good resources for those seeking mental health support.

As farmers and agricultural providers, sometimes a family member, neighbor or client needs support that we are not able to provide. In these instances, it's okay to share resources or referrals for them to get the support they need. Roger Williams, Professor Emeritus with UW-Madison Extension, offers several pieces of advice for making referrals:

Conversations that address emotional topics can be challenging. Deepening our conversations and the ways we communicate can help us better figure out the kind of support needed. It allows us to strengthen our relationships and builds trust with those we are seeking to support.Communication is about more than what you say. It's about how you listen, respond, and react both verbally and non-verbally.Tips for constructive conversations:

Farm families are resilientindividuals, but there are times when help is needed. Take the time to recognize the state of your own emotional and mental well-being, seek out the support needed, and reach out to others to help them do the same.

Stephanie Plaster(Photo: UW-EX)

Stephanie Plaster is the Agriculture Extension Educator for Ozaukee and Washington Counties

UW Extension(Photo: UWEX)

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Taking stock of our mental and emotional well-being - Wisconsin State Farmer

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May 29th, 2020 at 5:47 pm

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