The U.S. Farmer Suicide Crisis
by Debbie Weingarten and Audra Mulkern
Since 2013, net farm income for U.S. farmers has declined 50%. Median farm income for 2017 is projected to be negative $1,325. Most commodity prices remain below the cost of production. There is a direct correlation between farm economics and farmer mental health. And as our current farm recession deepens, farmer suicides will continue to increase.
Since the publication of our article Why are American farmers killing themselves in record numbers? (published on December 6th, 2017 in The Guardian), we’ve heard from many people wondering how to help.
We have two suggestions:
1) Make an end-of-year donation to an organization that works directly with farmers (Scroll down for a list of organizations working on the front lines of farmer behavioral health. If you have an organization to add to this list, please add in the comments section below.
2) Contact your elected officials to demand that farmer behavioral health programs be funded in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Today, only 1% of our population is farming, which means fewer voices demanding change, but we as consumers can amplify their voices. We can reach out to our elected representatives and ask that farmers and their wellbeing be prioritized in state and national agendas. As discussions get underway for the 2018 Farm Bill, now is the time to ask for federal support for agricultural behavioral health programming.
Scroll down for some sample email, social media, and phone call scripts to get the ball rolling. Please also feel free to share the Guardian article with your elected officials. Let's lift our voices together in support of the foundation of our food system: our farmers.
ORGANIZATIONS TO SUPPORT
AgriWellness was co-founded by Dr Mike Rosmann, featured in the article, and ran the Sowing Seeds of Hope program for nearly 15 years. Their mission is to promote accessible behavioral health services for underserved and at-risk populations affected by rural crisis in agricultural communities. This non-profit organization could use your financial support. AgriWellness, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that is incorporated in Iowa. AgriWellness has a bank account at Shelby County State Bank in Harlan, Iowa. Donations may be made out to AgriWellness, Inc., in care of Dr. Michael Rosmann, 1027 1400th St., Harlan, IA 51537. All donations will be acknowledged by letter. They are working on creating a donation button as well.
FarmAid works year-round to build a system of agriculture that values family farmers, good food, soil and water, and strong communities. If you need to talk to someone directly, we are here to listen. You can call our farmer hotline at 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243). Joe and other Farm Aid staff answer the hotline Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. eastern time.
Nebraska’s Rural Response Hotline has provided information and assistance to individuals and families throughout rural Nebraska for over twenty years. The Hotline is a vital resource for individuals and families who are feeling overwhelmed with stress, depression, or other mental health related issues.
Newly announced series of workshops for 2018 - Down on the Farm: Supporting Farmers in Stressful Times is a free, three hour workshop that will help you recognize and respond when you think a farmer or farm family member might need help.
IF YOU NEED HELP
In addition to the organizations listed above,
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Crisis Text LIne
Text HOME to 741741
I am writing to ask that you support agriculture behavioral health programs as part of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Last year, a CDC study found that people working in agriculture take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population, and more than double that of military veterans.
A federal behavioral health program called the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) was approved as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, but funding was not appropriated for its implementation. It would have provided federal and regional helplines, as well as funding for counseling and other supports for farmers. It was estimated to cost the United States just $18 million annually, and it would have saved countless lives.
It’s long past time that we pass legislation that will provide behavioral health support for our farmers. Farmers are at the center of our food system and national security. We will not survive without food, and so we will not survive without farmers.
Please support agricultural behavioral health programs in the 2018 Farm Bill.
SOCIAL MEDIA: TWITTER
Dear @twitterhandle The farmer suicide rate is higher than any other occupation—higher even than military veterans. Farmers are at the center of our food system & national security. Please support farmer behavioral health programs in the #2018FarmBill
SOCIAL MEDIA: FACEBOOK
The farmer suicide rate is higher than any other occupation—higher even than military veterans. Farmers are at the center of our food system & national security.
Please support farmer behavioral health programs in the #2018FarmBill
PHONE CALL SCRIPT
I’m a constituent from YOUR CITY / STATE. The farmer suicide rate is higher than any other occupation—higher even than military veterans. I am very concerned about this, because farmers are at the center of our food system and national security. I’m asking ELECTED OFFICIAL’S NAME to support funding farmer behavioral health programs in the 2018 Farm Bill.