I am here, in the house, writing this column because we had another round of rain, and I cannot be out mowing hay. I said last summer I was not going to complain about rain, but here we are a year later, and it is hard not to. It appears the whole universe is against those of us in agriculture, and we can’t catch a break.
Between weather, trade wars and record-low farm income, it is easy to get down. We all get down at times, I know I did this winter. We had wave after wave of bad weather; it never let us catch a breath or fully recover from the havoc it wreaked on our livestock. I remember one night coming in and telling Jennifer, my wife, I could not take it anymore.
She listened to me and consoled and counseled me the best way she knew how. I was lucky, I had a support team around me who helped me with chores and things got better. That is not always the case. Every day I read stories about the mental health crisis in agriculture and the rising rates of suicide among our friends and neighbors. I understand, and I am worried.
Several times I have been asked what Kansas Farm Bureau can do about this crisis, and I must admit I don’t have any easy answers. We have talked about it. Kansas State Extension and Research has a wonderful program to connect farmers and ranchers with the help they need. Resources and mental health professionals are often just a call away. However, these resources are seldom used.
I get it — it’s tough to admit we need help. I don’t see my medical doctor as often as I should, and medical problems do not have the stigma mental health issues do. That is a downfall of our society, and one we had better get over in a hurry. We have also been raised with the idea that emotions should not be shown, things will get better, just suck it up and go on. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I don’t know what the answer is. I know we need more resources funneled into mental health. I know it is going to be a bigger and bigger problem if this economy and weather don’t straighten out. While I may not have all the answers, I do know one thing we can all do.
Take care of each other. Watch your neighbors and friends, offer support and, most importantly, if you think someone is struggling talk about it. Let their family know, talk to them, don’t ever let anyone think they are going through this by themselves and don’t be afraid to intervene. Take the time to check on friends and neighbors you haven’t seen for a while. The best thing about farmers and ranchers is the community, and communities care for everyone. Together we will get through this.
(Glenn Brunkow is a Pottawatomie County farmer and rancher. "Insight" is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.)