A recent article in the Guardian asks the question: Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers? The article goes on to note that farmers and ranchers (agricultural workers) kill themselves at a rate five times higher than any other industry. The suicide rate is more than double that of veterans.
While some people have been aware of the large numbers of farmer suicides in other countries like India, Australia, France, and the U.K., this article focuses on how the U.S. has the same suicide crisis. Author Debbie Weingarten notes that there was a high level of suicides during the farm crisis of the 1980s, and, as a result, some farmer behavioral support was developed and subsidized. Unfortunately, over the years, this support has become defunded. One psychologist/farmer, Mike Rosmann, has been looking at this issue for over 40 years and notes: “Farming has always been a stressful occupation because many of the factors that affect agricultural production are largely beyond the control of the producers …The emotional wellbeing of family farmers and ranchers is intimately intertwined with these changes.”
A Center for Disease Control (CDC) report notes that possible causes for the high suicide rate among US farmers includes:
- Social isolation
- Potential for financial losses
- Barriers to and unwillingness to seek mental health services (which might be limited in rural areas)
- Access to lethal means
But with net farm income dropping, the clear connection between financial stress and the increased risk of suicide is becoming apparent. Rosmann notes: “The rate of self-imposed [farmer] death rises and falls in accordance with their economic well-being … Suicide is currently rising because of our current farm recession.”
As one farmer in the Guardian article notes, the isolation compounds the financial challenges, which is all the more reason that families and farm communities focus on the connection between farms and building their community to support each other through these tough times.
In another article about life balance by Elaine Froese, she notes that farm family resilience research by Dr. Nikki Gerrard of Saskatchewan showed that the keys to balanced living are communication, connection, and a deep sense of community.
The many farmers and ranchers I have met in the Holistic Management community have all talked about the power of being able to talk about the challenges they face with others in their community. In connecting with their community they begin to learn about how others are addressing these challenges and also learning from the skills and knowledge of their community to help them better develop their farm and ranch plans to address those challenges and create resilience within their families and businesses. Farmers and ranchers practicing Holistic Management have consistently talked about the power of the holistic goal to improve communication within their families so they can have the crucial conversations necessary to overcome the critical issues they face and to learn more deeply what they do have control over.
HMI provides our curriculum free through our Free Downloads page to encourage anyone to learn this value-based decision-making process that improves farm family communication as well as the financial planning process. We also offer scholarships to those who need financial assistance for training.
If you are in crisis, in the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
A Season of Giving
At this time of the year, we often find ourselves counting our blessings while appreciating the gifts that we’ve been given.
Here at Holistic Management International, we’re no different. Here are just a few of the gifts that we’re grateful for:
The Gift of Healthy Land
Your gifts have put us on track to reach our 20/20 vision of 20 million additional acres of healthy land by the year 2020.
The Gift of Healthy Food
We have seen the Holistic Management community grow, supporting the work of creating healthy lands while producing the nutritious food that will feed communities across the globe.
The Gift of Knowledge
Your generous gifts have also allowed us to provide over $50,000 worth of scholarships since 2014.
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