What a wild and crazy time we are in.
As I sit at my dining room table putting these thoughts together, I think of the emotions that I have felt during the past month. For me, many of those emotions come from not seeing my friends, family and colleagues other than during video conferences, and knowing that each of us are trying to find ways to manage a new routine.
Other emotions come from talking to Farm Bureau members and hearing the disappointment when the events that they have been planning are being cancelled. And the emotions of knowing that farmers and others are struggling with the unknown and the feelings of helplessness that come from not being able to solve the problems. Are you having any of these feelings?
At the beginning of COVID-19, the information was overwhelming, and I didn’t know what to do with it. And as time has passed, I realize I need to focus on things I can control and let go of things I cannot. If you know me, this is a hard one.
Since the beginning of the year, I have spent a lot of time talking to Farm Bureau members, participating in trainings and combing through resources and research related to farmers and mental health. There are many valuable resources.
The one thing I can do is talk about mental health and share the resources and information that is available.
I am not a mental health professional, but I am someone who cares about people. I want to provide some useful tools if you or someone you know is experiencing chronic stress, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide.
Here are five things that I want you to consider.
- It is time to talk about it.
A healthy farm is nothing without a healthy you. I think about the times that I have accompanied my dad to the feed mill, Fleet Farm or local country bar for lunch where he could spend hours talking with other farmers about every topic under the sun. Never in a million years would I have expected him to talk about how he was feeling or about mental health. I know that there are others like him. Farmers have always been strong and resilient people, the helpers, not the ones in need of help. We need to have the conversation. We need to start talking about stress and mental health and we need to do it now.
- It is ok to feel and not be ok.
It is ok to have feelings. The stress that comes from farming can be overwhelming and such a roller coaster. The high of having new life on the farm to the highs and lows of commodity prices and everything in between. How are you supposed to manage? It is ok to feel all of the emotions. It is ok to not have all of the answers. It is ok to talk to someone about how you are feeling. Its ok to have feelings.
- How are you taking care of yourself?
Again, a healthy farm is nothing without a healthy you. Self-care and mindfulness are not selfish. We need you to be your best self for you, your family and the community in which you live. There are many things you can do to cultivate a productive mindset and develop coping strategies. While you might think this is a little hokey, I encourage you to find something that works for you.
- Starting the conversation is the hardest step.
I’ll be honest, I am my own worst enemy. I can think and worry about having tough conversations until I talk myself right out of them. Can anyone relate? Conversations about mental health, stress and suicide can be difficult but it must start somewhere. Just being available to listen is the most useful form of help you can provide. Practice active listening by asking open ended questions to understand a person’s thoughts and feelings that they may have at first been willing to share. Show empathy versus sympathy for the individual.
- There are resources available for you.
- Find local resources.
- The Wisconsin Farm Center can provide vouchers for counseling. You can call the toll-free line at 800.942.2474.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotlinecall 800.273.8255 or text HOPELINE to 741741.
- WFBF Rural Resilience.
Wendy Kannel serves as the Senior Director of Member Relations for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She grew up on a dairy farm outside of Spring Valley in Pierce County and is a UW-River Falls graduate with a degree in agricultural education.
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