Why do we talk about mental health all the time now?

By Jessica Cabrera

Isn’t it interesting how things change over time? And how do certain issues become mainstream?

We used to play outside morning to night, day after day, without a second thought, and now up to 60 million people in the United States are affected by seasonal allergies and find it difficult to participate in daily activities. normal outdoors. My son is allergic to weed! How did it happen?

We used to mindlessly eat PB&J sandwiches and peanut butter crackers, but now I ask the person sitting next to me on a plane if I can eat peanut M&Ms (my guilty pleasure of traveling! ) because I don’t want to unintentionally induce an anaphylactic attack by flying above 30,000 feet.

And anyone over 40 can attest that “screen time” wasn’t a thing when we were growing up. Today, portable electronic devices provide access to our main source of information – the Internet. I admit that I would be in serious trouble if I didn’t have a GPS (don’t judge me!). How did technology become so ubiquitous so quickly?

No farmer should feel like he has to deal with the problems of this world alone. We are stronger together.

What about mental health? No one was talking about mental health wellness when I was growing up. I remember one of my father’s best friends who committed suicide when I was little, and even after that, we didn’t talk about it anymore. It was taboo and I don’t think people around me knew how to articulate the issue. But now the subject of mental health is discussed at work, in schools, among friends and in the media. Why the change?

Believe it or not, the month of May was created as Mental Health Month in 1949 to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in the lives of Americans. It’s not a new idea that mental health is essential to a person’s overall health, so this topic isn’t new to the scene. But why has the subject become so popular?

People are dying.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but that’s what this is about. We lose our friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, classmates, and teammates to suicide, and we want it to stop. He does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, and most of the time it does its damage in the shadows.

This is especially true in agriculture. The suicide rate among farmers and ranchers during the agricultural crisis of the 1980s increased dramatically, bringing attention to this problem in farming communities. Fast forward nearly 40 years and reports indicate that farmers are dying by suicide at a rate two to five times higher than the national average. This is a crippling comparison, and it deserves attention!

I posit that there is so much talk about mental health now because we have learned that giving voice to this issue saves lives. Too many people are in trouble and too many have lost their lives. Over the years, more and more of us have had a personal connection with someone who has committed suicide, and we’ve had enough. We have to do something!

The American Farm Bureau’s Farm State of Mind Campaign is our way of letting farmers and ranchers know that it’s okay to not be OK, that they’re not alone, and that there are resources for to help. That’s how we work to provide family members, friends, neighbors and people who work in the agriculture industry with the information and training they need to recognize the warning signs and start boldly. a conversation. Through this campaign, farmers and herders are able to tell their stories of struggle, victory and advocacy. No farmer should feel like he has to deal with the problems of this world alone. We are stronger together.

Results from our most recent research poll indicate that farmers and rural dwellers are more comfortable talking about stress and mental health issues with others than they were in 2019. an industry that prides itself on getting by and never letting anyone know you’re hurting is a sign of progress. The stressors haven’t diminished and the challenges persist, but it’s time farmers and ranchers know that it’s okay not to be well and getting help is not a a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.

So let’s keep talking about it! Embrace the change. It makes a difference. Little by little, it will save lives.

Jessica Cabrera is executive director of member engagement at the American Farm Bureau Federation and program manager for the farm mindset campaign.

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