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COVID-19 is affecting farmer mental health

COVID-19 is affecting farmer mental health

The American Farm Bureau Federation conducted a national survey to check in with farmers

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A majority of surveyed American farmers say the COVID-19 pandemic has had some effect on their mental health.

Between Dec. 4 and 13, Morning Consult, a market research company, surveyed 2,000 rural adults on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

Two in three farmers or farmworkers (66 percent or about 1,320 people) feel the pandemic is affecting their mental health.

This finding, as well as others in the survey, demonstrate the need for more mental health support in rural communities, said Zippy Duvall, president of the AFBF.

“My takeaway from this survey is that the need for support is real and we must not allow lack of access or a ‘too tough to need help’ mentality stand in the way,” he said in a Jan. 6 statement.

Other survey conclusions include:

  • Farmers and farmworkers are 10 percent more likely than rural adults to have experienced feeling nervous, anxious or on edge during the pandemic.
  • Two-thirds of rural adults between 18 and 44 say they’re experiencing more mental health challenges compared to one year ago.
  • Stigma, embarrassment, availability and cost remain some of the obstacles preventing farmers and rural Americans from seeking help.

States are working to fill mental health service gaps within rural communities.

In Missouri, for example, 57 of the state’s rural counties have no mental health professionals.

“Critical resources are woefully inadequate and poorly matched to the needs of farmers and ranchers,” Kathy Dothage, director of home and family education at the University of Missouri, said in a university release on Dec. 23. “Even when resources do exist, distance and affordability are issues since many self-employed rural families lack health insurance coverage.”

The University of Missouri is part of a $28.7 million, three-year grant from the USDA through the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN).

The U.S. created the FRSAN in 2008 but the network received no funding and it lapsed.

In 2018, Tom Emmer from Minnesota’s 6th district revived the FRSAN through the Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide (STRESS) Act.

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, you can access a list of resources compiled by Farms.com.

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