Mental health in agriculture: Let’s erase the stigma


Mental health has received a fair amount of attention in the media lately. Perhaps it’s a much needed wake up call to raise attention and awareness on a topic that’s so important to us all — are you or someone you know suffering from mental illness? Have you or a loved one gone through a tough time and needed to do a checkup on mental health? If you answered “no,” you very well could be in the minority.

Research from John Hopkins explains that 1 in 4 Americans suffers from some sort of diagnosable medical disorder in a given year. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in adolescents and adults aged 15 to 24, and there are more than twice as many suicides each year than there are homicides. According to, about 40 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety, and 300 million people around the world have some sort of depression. Sadness and different emotions are all part of life, and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it, raise awareness, and seek help if need be. As many as a whopping EIGHTY percent of women experience post-partum depression and/or fatigue (commonly referred to as the “baby blues”).

Lesley Kelly of Saskatchewan is one of those ladies. She experienced the “baby blues” and has spoken out about it, to help millions of people around the world realize they’re not alone. A fellow farmer, blogger, and AgVocate, she blogs under the name High Heels and Canola Fields and is the co-founder of The Do More Agriculture Foundation, a non-for-profit that raises awareness and provides support for agricultural producers and families affected.

Lesley and her husband, Matt, produced a social media video about depression, anxiety, and panic attacks that gained a lot of attention on the topic. A few folks were rude, but Lesley says the outpouring of support was wonderful, kind, and humbling. The video may bring tears to your eyes, and bravo to them for having the courage to speak out, relieve burdens, and break down the stigma. Lesley and fellow co-founder Kim Keller state on their website: Talk more. Ask more. Do more. When you ask someone, “How are you,” really mean it. They provide many resources on how we can help others within our means, lean on a good support system as needed, and provide a stronger community of resources and initiatives that help.

Agriculture in general is going through a tough time right now. Many farms are in crisis, going out of business, in times of financial struggle, etc. Losing a farm isn’t just losing a job; it’s family, it’s history, it’s legacy and identity. There are many reasons for the struggle, but as of late it has to do with commodity prices being below the cost of production, tariffs harming our export market, economic downturn, and overproduction. Farming is already considered one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, and the inability to turn a profit for many certainly isn’t helping. It has been reported that farmers are twice as likely to commit suicide than a majority of other careers.

If you’re reading this and feeling anxious or down, just know you’re not alone and there are many, many resources out there to help. For farmers, there will always be good years and bad. The saying that goes, “The farmer has to be an eternal optimist or else they wouldn’t be a farmer,” can ring true. Hang in there and know people care.

This is a link for Canadian resources and the Do More Agriculture Foundation, and here are some links for U.S. producers. As always, you can call the suicide helplines 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK, see your doctor or mental health counselor. Mental health is just as important as any other part of our health, and it’s time to realize it’s OK to speak about it and open up. Mental health doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone … take care of yourself and loved ones. Talk about it.

Please share this article or these resources. It just may save a life.


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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