Podcast focuses on farmers’ mental health

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding joined the Center for Dairy Excellence, the Penn State Farm Stress team, and the AgriSafe Network for a farm stress podcast discussion in honor of Mental Health Month.

The conversation in May highlighted the unique stressors farmers, agricultural workers and their families face and resources available to Pennsylvania farm families seeking mental health support.

The ‘“Farm Stress and Mental Health” podcast, hosted by the Center for Dairy Excellence, is available through the department of agriculture’s mental wellness webpage.

“Agriculture and stress are often synonymous,” Redding said. “Weather, market fluctuations, input costs, succession planning and other stressors weigh heavily on farmers every day. “Partnering with industry and health care professionals, the department is building a support network to address stress within the agricultural community.

“Stress is a commonality we all share, but it is not something we have to face on our own. Together, we can navigate daily stressors; know that you are supported, and there are resources and people here to help.”

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, financial challenges, farm or business problems, and the fear of losing the farm are top contributors to farmers’ mental health. Cost, embarrassment and stigma often prevent farmers from seeking help or treatment for a mental health condition.

In August, the agriculture department received a $500,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network to carry out programming to address farm stress and mental health.

The grant dollars support mental health resources available through the Center for Dairy Excellence, a mental health hotline through the AgriSafe Networkmarketing to increase mental health awareness and reduce stigma, and regional collaboration with the National Young Farmers Coalition.

“For the agriculture community, mental health is a very real issue,” said Jayne Sebright, Center for Dairy Excellence executive director. “Mental health issues often go undetected on the farm because of the nature of the job.

“Farmers work independently, and so much about what we do is wrapped up in who we are. The Center for Dairy Excellence has been working with other centers for agriculture excellence and agriculture stakeholders to increase awareness around farm stress and mental health.”

The AgriSafe Network is a nonprofit organization working to reduce health disparities in agricultural communities. AgriSafe supports a network of trained agricultural health and safety professionals to provide preventative services for farm families, including stress and mental health services.

The department partnered with the AgriSafe Network to launch the AgriStress HelpLine for Pennsylvania in February. The AgriStress HelpLine is free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Anyone who works in Pennsylvania agriculture can contact the AgriStress Helpline by calling 833-897-AGRI (2474).

For the full “Farm Stress and Mental Health” podcast discussion and to learn more about the Wolf Administration’s commitment to agricultural mental health initiatives, visit agriculture.pa.gov and click on the mental wellness icon.