Tyler —May is mental health month. The Texas Department of Agriculture, the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention, and Education (SW Ag Center), and the AgriSafe Network want to break the stigma and remind producers and their families that it is okay to ask for help.
The CDC defines mental health as “an important part of overall health and well-being. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.” 1
Mental health is just as important as our physical health. In fact, they are deeply connected! When we endure stress for long periods of time, we can exhibit physical symptoms like headaches, joint pain, loss of appetite, fatigue, and more.
Ignoring signs that our mental well-being needs a tune-up could result in time away from work and increased healthcare expenses.
Signs and symptoms of stress include, but are not limited to:
- A decline in personal appearance
- Changes in routines or social activities
- Increases in illnesses or chronic conditions
- Lack of interest in activities
- A decline in the care of pets and livestock
- A decline in the appearance of the farm
- Increases in farm injuries or incidents
Warning signs of suicide include but are not limited to:
- Withdrawal from friends or activities
- Suggesting people would be better off without them
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Drastic changes in mood or behavior
- Giving away possessions
If these warning signs of suicide apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has occurred more often. Learn more.
Not only does the agriculture industry have some of the highest rates of fatalities and injuries across all age groups, but also some of the highest rates of suicide.
Recent data from the CDC indicated that farmers are twice as likely as people in other occupations to die by suicide. 2
Work and life in agricultural communities bring about unique stressors and situations including barriers to care.
Risk factors for poor mental health that can be prevalent in agricultural communities include:
- Social isolation
- Advanced age
- Higher rates of chronic medical condition
- Commodity prices
- Weather changes
- Long hours or fatigue
- A recent loss (emotional, relational, or financial)
Barriers to accessing care include:
- Lack of privacy or anonymity
- Changes in health insurance
- Instability at work
That is why the Texas Department of Agriculture, SW Ag Center, and AgriSafe Network have established the free and confidential AgriStress Helpline of Texas.
Suicide Lifeline First, Resource Line Second
While there are a handful of agricultural resource and referral lines out there, the AgriStress Helpline is the only crisis support line currently dedicated to agricultural, forestry, and fishing communities.
Accessible and Affordable
In addition to both call and text capability, the 24/7 toll-free AgriStress Helpline has a translation capability of 160 languages. All calls are answered within 30 seconds, with an average answer rate of around 18 seconds.
There is no limit to how many times someone may call the line, nor is there a limit on call duration. All callers receive care that is specific to their needs – whether that is a risk assessment, emergency services, emotional support, or connection to resources. Everyone is also offered a 24-hour follow-up call.
The Texas Department of Agriculture wants to remind producers, it’s okay to acknowledge feelings of anxiousness, hopelessness, or even thoughts of suicide. Tough conversations today could prevent tragedy tomorrow.
If you know someone that is experiencing emotional pain or thoughts of suicide…
- Ask if they want to talk and let them know you care about them.
- Listen to them well.
- Familiarize yourself with available mental and behavioral health resources.
- Connect them to help and follow up.
- Reduce access to lethal means, such as firearms, if you think someone is at risk of suicide.
Even small gestures can make a big impact like sending a text or making a call. Support from friends and family is a powerful tool for those coping with poor mental health.
If you or someone you know needs support or resources, you may call or text the AgriStress Helpline at 833-897-2474 or find additional resources at FarmLifeHelp.org.
The Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention and Education was created in late 1995 at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSCT) to serve Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas as part of a program initiative of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The initiative established a network of centers, funded on a competitive basis, to conduct programs of research, prevention, intervention, education and outreach designed to reduce occupational injuries and diseases among agricultural workers and their families.