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Study: Farmers Don’t Have Enough Access to Mental Health

LAKE BETON, Minn. — A University of Minnesota study says farmers in the state may not be getting all the help they need to deal with the stress and mental strain of their jobs.

Marizen Ramirez, who co-authored the study and is an epidemiologist at the university, told Minnesota Public Radio that farmers who live far from mental health clinics may have a hard time getting the help they need.

American farmers in the early 1990s and 2000s had a suicide rate three to five times higher than other jobs, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Rural Health in 2017.

“Certainly the farm is a really interesting intersection of home and life and work, in which many of these elements of personal life do cross into the work life,” Ramirez said. “We need to be a little bit more creative and innovative as to how can we reach solo farmers, who often work in operations on their own.”

Farmers are more isolated now because they tend to work alone more than in the past, said Ted Matthews, who has counseled farm families for decades.

“Back in the day, a family, if you said, ‘Do you eat all your meals together?’ they’d look at you, like, ‘Of course we do. What else would we do?’” Matthews said. “Now, it’s rare that a farm family eats all three of their meals together. It’s very rare.”

Matthews said he works to convince farmers that therapy isn’t a sign that there’s something wrong with them. He focuses on helping them find ways to better deal with daily stress.

“When people hear mental health, they don’t hear mental health, they hear mental illness,” Matthews said. The idea is “to make it better, not to fix it.”


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