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Breaking The Stigma: Addressing Mental Health Challenges in Farming Communities

The concern for farmers’ mental health issues has increased globally. Let us understand the potential key risk factors that affect farmers’ mental health and how to manage them.

Aarushi Chadha
Farmer
Ignoring signs of mental distress and long-term stress can cause severe damage to the farmer’s health, personal life, and susceptibility to farm accidents

Farming is a demanding job not just physically but also mentally. It is only compounded by economic uncertainty, vulnerability to weather events, and isolation, along with limited access to proper channels of healthcare and mental healthcare services, which can provide support to farmers when they are experiencing extreme stress, depression, and anxiety.

Ignoring signs of mental distress and long-term stress can cause severe damage to the farmer’s health, personal life, and susceptibility to farm accidents. A big part of managing mood disorders is developing coping skills that can help them respond to stressful situations in a healthy and calm manner.

Contributing factors to farm stress

There is a huge stigma surrounding mental health and people find it hard to seek help or treatment for mental health, even in urban areas. Farm stress is the stress experienced by farmers and their families because of the unique agricultural environment. Many even develop mental health issues from fear of losing a farm that has a generational legacy and is part of their identity. On top of that, farming requires a lot of physical labor. Other contributors to farm stress include-

  • Fatigue and excessive workload

  • Extreme outdoor work conditions

  • Tariffs and commodity pricing

  • Weather and climate

  • Debt load, equipment repairs

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Stress has physical and mental signs and symptoms-

  • Poor or disturbed sleep

  • Chest pain

  • Increased smoking and alcohol consumption

  • Pessimistic mindset

  • Changes in appetite

  • Poor concentration, confusion, and forgetfulness

  • Feeling anxious

  • Sad mood

  • Stomach or gastrointestinal problems

  • Worrying about random things

Ways to manage stress and mental health challenges in farming communities

  • Start focusing on the things you can control- A lot of time people start feeling stress, anxiety, or a mentally spiral when they start feeling that they have lost control of their surroundings. The success of a healthy and bountiful yield is dependent upon a multitude of factors, some which can be controlled by the farmers and other factors, such as weather conditions, stock market fluctuations, and a quick change in foreign market demands, which are completely out of their control.

  • Do not overwork yourself- Our body and brain start to feel stressed when it has to deal with several busy or challenging events at the same time. Farmers can utilize the off-season to repair their machinery and stock up on tools, fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. We also recommend distributing responsibilities to care for livestock, run the machinery, and handle other agricultural tasks beforehand, so that there is less confusion.

  • Become financially independent- A big source of stress for many farmers is the constant reminder of their debt to loaners and to the bank. Look for additional streams of revenue, such as manufacturing value-added products and making your own fertilizers and mulch in order to pay off your debt and simplify your life.

  • Make a list of the things you need to do- Just like machines, human beings can also start malfunctioning when they are overworked. This can make people confused and forget things easily. It is best that you start making a list of your responsibilities for the day based on how important the tasks are. This will help you increase your sense of control.

  • Take some time off for yourself- Overworking and constantly thinking about the job can increase our risk of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Taking some time off for yourself once a year or practicing self-care rituals can help break the monotony of life and give you something to look out for. Also, seeking professional help when things start to become dire might seem like a scary step but it can help you immensely.

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