Perhaps the most important thing a person can do for themselves is take care of their mental well being. Whether it is with adults or children, maintaining a healthy mind is key to a fully healthy lifestyle. Mental health has always been a key part of the agriculture community but it wasn’t always talked about. Susan Springer, founder of Suicide Prevention Southwest Wisconsin provides insight into how mental health and agriculture come together and how to handle farm stressors such as farm succession.
“Many farmers never get away from the farms as it’s where they live,” says Springer. “They’re constantly on the farm and being exposed to stress or mental health triggers which can lead to depression or suicide.”
When Springer first started in 2014, it was more stigmatized to even talk about suicide. However, she says now people are reaching out more and utilizing the available resources.
“We still have the stereotypes we need to break down as it does not mean you’re weak if you ask for help,” explains Springer. “The resources are confidential and work to fit your personal needs accordingly.”
Springer says that when someone calls the 24-hour 988 suicide hotline, the operator will ask their name, birthdate, and possible even if they have insurance. This isn’t something to be cautious about as they are asking because they need to know that for if they need to send an ambulance, if it’s somebody’s in the act of suicide, they want to get them to a hospital that covers their insurance.
“What’s really nice about reaching out to available hotlines is that you can do it while you’re driving around in your truck or in the field in your tractor and nobody even has to know,” adds Springer.
When it comes to farm succession, that can be a very stressful time on a family. In order to help make that process easier to go through, Springer says to make sure the younger generation is at the table for every step of the transition.
It’s important to take into account the workload and amount of staff you have and who may or may not be staying during the transition. Additionally, the older generation needs to allow the younger generation to learn and make mistakes versus still trying to control things like when they owned it.
Once the transition is complete, the retiring generation may have a lot more free time on their hands and not have realized the impact it can have on their mental health to not always be doing something like they’re used to.
Springer says, “It is important because if you don’t have anything to focus on that’s when you’re having problems or these feelings arise because when you’re busy you can push them down and just kind of put them off to the side. You don’t have to feel with them but all of a sudden, when time stops in a sense and you’re not as busy, that’s when it can all hit you at once.”
If you are looking for help there are resources available:
Farm Aid Helpline: 800 327 6243, Mon-Fri 9-5
WI Farm Center: 800 942 2474, Mon-Fri 7:45-4:30
National Suicide Hotline: 988, 24 hours a day
You can also go to https://www.suicide-swwi.org to find needed resources.