Do you remember the first time you had the wind knocked out of you? I fell out of a tree at my cousins’ house when I was a kid. I remember the “pack” of kids looking down on me and my sister running off to find an adult.

My dad, with his calm manner and soothing voice, knelt beside me and explained what had happened and that I would indeed recover. That ton of bricks that lay atop my chest, making it so hard to breathe and impossible to rise, would go away.

It did eventually go away that hot and sticky August night in the early 1970s, but there have been times since when I’ve felt a similar weight on my chest that had absolutely nothing to do with falling out of a tree.

Stress can manifest itself physically. If you are involved in agriculture in any way, you have probably experienced some level of stress in recent months.

American Farm Bureau Federation released results last month from research conducted among rural adults on its behalf by Morning Consult.

The research was done to better understand the current impressions on mental health, including stigma, access to mental health resources, trusted resources for mental health information, contributors to the mental health of farmers, effective actions to reduce stigma associated with mental health, the scope of the problem of mental health and personal experiences with mental health.

A quick review of key findings offered no notable surprises: Most rural adults say mental health is important to them and/or their family; a majority of rural adults agree cost, embarrassment, and stigma would be an obstacle if they were seeking help or treatment for a mental health condition; and a strong majority of farmers and farm workers think financial issues, farm or business problems and fear of losing the farm impact the mental health of farmers.

Farmers and ranchers are directly impacted by weather, an uncertain future, social isolation, and the overall state of the farm economy. Because the economy of most rural communities depends so heavily on agriculture, many people who live and work “in town” are feeling the pressure, as well.

Stress and anxiety are common on the farm during so-called normal years. But for many, our emotional plates are full — and not in a good way — and the “weight on our chests” continues to increase. The connection between mental and physical health is real.

Farmers and ranchers in this country are in the sixth year of low commodity prices while input costs continue to rise. Worry coupled with the fear of disappointing those we love is a heavy, heavy weight. At that low point, it is difficult to look beyond your current situation, but tomorrow will come and there are places to go to get some help.

For some of us, talking with a friend or family member is enough. You also can talk to a medical doctor. For others, a call to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, with around-the-clock free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. The number is 800-273-8255.

You are not alone.


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