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Helping A Stressed-Out Farm Neighbor
Farmers and ranchers juggle multiple priorities every day while dodging curve balls from Mother Nature, commodity prices, and more. Sometimes it just gets to be too much, and their emotions and mental health come crashing down.
Kate Downes is the outreach director for New York Farm Net, a program at Cornell University. She says if there’s someone you’re concerned about, there are physical and mental signs to watch for such as a change in their appearance, a lack of energy and concentration, lashing out in anger, trouble sleeping. Maybe this person isn’t stopping at the diner anymore for their morning chat and cup of coffee.
The best thing you can do to help is show empathy, not sympathy.
"You can say, ‘I hear you saying’, and then repeat back the main concern that farmer’s expressing to you. Another phrase I like is, ‘well that sounds like a lot, how are you handling this, what are you doing to take care of yourself’? Something else, ‘these are really tough times, tough challenges’," suggests Downes. "Ask them what they would like you to help with, if they want your help at all."
Don’t minimize their struggle or downplay what they’re feeling. Encourage them to reach out to their social support system or someone who has helped them through tough times in the past. Downes says if you think this person is considering suicide, address it head-on.
"Asking them about suicide is not going to plant that seed of completing suicide. So, if you think they may harm themselves, ask them," she says. "Are you going to complete suicide, are you going to harm yourself? Ask them directly because they may be totally relieved that someone else sees how stressed out they are."