A focus on farm stress

By Dee Jepsen

This time of year, it’s possible to look back with different outlooks about how the past year has treated us, especially if we’re involved with agriculture. The year 2023 has served us with many fluctuations, whether it be the weather, the markets, supply chain delays, labor shortages or any combination of other stressors.

Yet, rural people continue to be resilient in the unique way they face each day and each season. Old timers’ quotes portray resilience in phrases like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “look for the rainbow beyond the clouds.” These words can add optimism to those daily tasks that appear impossible for us to complete, especially if we are lacking in faith and motivation in our own abilities. It is through this lens, that we take time to recognize and highlight farm resilience during several mental well-being activities that occur in November.

Farm stress awareness campaign

The Ohio Agricultural Mental Health Alliance was formed to support the mental well-being of farmers, agricultural workers, and their families. This group supports agricultural persons going through struggles that may be different than those experienced in other occupations. Alliance collaborators include a mix of agricultural organizations, state agencies, commodity groups, agribusinesses, and mental health professionals. Their first campaign was launched as “We’ve Got Your Back” and provided links to resources to support Ohio’s agricultural community. Now an even larger initiative has begun — one that will bring more diversified resources to Ohio.

It’s no secret that farm stress is a very broad topic — one that has multiple layers and factors that affect the people involved. To better understand the unique stressors associated with farming, the Alliance launched a statewide questionnaire for anyone with an agriculturally-related job or a connection to an agricultural worker. They ask for everyone’s help to identify the real stressors faced in this industry. As more people are willing to talk about mental health, then additional support and resources can be created.

We know that talking about stress can be a tough conversation. That’s why the survey is completely anonymous; no personal data is collected to identify the survey takers. It may take up to 15 minutes to complete. Persons can simply log in to share their personal stressors — and how they cope — with agricultural work. All comments received will help create more resources, programs, and services for Ohio agricultural workers and their families.

The survey is available at the website: go.osu.edu/FarmStressSurvey

Or, scan the QR code using the camera APP on a smart phone to go directly to the survey.

Taking care of our mental wellness is as much a priority as taking care of our physical health. By working together, especially in the spirit of November’s National Rural Health campaign, we can continue to focus on the power of rural, and the power of a healthy farm community.

Dee Jepsen, Professor, can be reached at 614-292-6008 or jepsen.4@osu.edu. This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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