Over the years, I have received messages and emails from farm women needing someone to talk to. In recent months, those messages are pretty consistent. Either they do not have someone to talk to, or they do not have someone who understands this way of life. Ladies (and gents), I am right there with you. My family and close friends do not understand the daily struggles of farm life. This is why I always make time for those messages. This is also why I am so thankful for the farm women I have met through getting involved with our cooperative programs and the women I met through my blog.
As I play back these conversations there is a common theme: Farm families are struggling all over the country, all over the world. Weather, finances, etc. are all things we deal with, but that is not what I am talking about. The struggle is much deeper than that. Many are depressed and not quite sure how to deal with it. There are times when we can “just deal with it” on our own and push forward, but there are also times when we can’t and need some support.
This past winter and extremely wet spring hit us pretty hard. We have had one thing after another come our way to the point where both of us are completely maxed out. The past week I have really been struggling as everything seems to have come to a head from being behind due to weather, breakdowns, lack of enough hours in a day, etc. I am so very thankful that I realized awhile ago that you need people in your life to talk to other than your spouse simply because he/she could be maxed out as well.
Why is it that as farmers and ranchers we feel the need to put on this show while deep down inside we are not fine or behind closed doors our families are falling apart? I have seen far too many farm families I care about, and even families I do not know personally, fall apart because for some reason we are not supposed to acknowledge that we might need some help, that we are depressed, or that someone in our own circle might need some help. There is NO shame in needing help or someone to talk too. No shame at all. The shame should be in pushing forward and damaging yourself and/or your family over foolish pride.
I feel like agriculture has been programmed to keep our emotions in check, to not deal with them, and to farm on. I feel like we are supposed to say things like, “Everything is great,” when everything isn’t, just to uphold some sort of “agriculture is the best life” image. But the truth is, we are just people like everyone else, and there are times when farming takes everything we have and we just are not okay. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to say, “This is just too much.” Even more so, it’s okay to get help and the support you need to get back on top of your world.
The truth is that depression is a real thing and it is real issue in the farming community, suicide rates are higher than you might think, divorce, substance abuse, etc. these are all real issues within agriculture that I feel like just get brushed to the side.
I do not believe I have all the answers but my hope is that we can start talking about this and end the stigma associated with mental health issues in agriculture. I don’t think I can watch one more family I care about torn apart by divorce or substance abuse simply because someone doesn’t want to appear “weak” by needing help.
Reach out to someone you trust, talk to them. If you cannot do that, reach out to a local pastor or counselor. Those conversations are private. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to continue. But please at least try to get the help you need.
If things are beyond talking, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline | 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Krista Stauffer is a wife, mother of three, and first-generation millennial dairy farmer. Krista works side by side with her husband and kids on their 140-cow dairy.