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Resources Available for Farmers Feeling Winter Blues

Snow and below-freezing temperatures can lead farmers to feel isolated in the winter. (Tatiana/Adobe Stock)
Snow and below-freezing temperatures can lead farmers to feel isolated in the winter. (Tatiana/Adobe Stock)
January 20, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Mental health on farms is a serious issue this time of year as the blues can settle in when temperatures drop.

Brandon Delvo, a community operations specialist with the North Dakota Farmers Union, says the agriculture economy is weighing on farmers, and winter months can create isolation, sometimes making people feel hopeless.

He says common signs of depression include being sad most of the day, unable to stop worrying or becoming irritable at normal things.

Delvo notes the phrase "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is common in the region.

"We're known for that up here in the upper Midwest and we have kind of an independent, you know, problem-solving type of personality, especially among farmers," he states. "And sometimes, there's just things that are beyond our control, and this is where these resources really help out a lot."

Delvo says there are statewide telehealth conferencing services for depression and counseling options from the Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.

Additionally, folks can call 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is available 24 hours a day.

He also says the North Dakota State University Extension has good agriculture-based resources.

Delvo says farm communities are tight-knit and neighbors might notice a change in a person. He says folks should be direct and simply ask if people they know are doing okay.

"When a person is depressed, they may not realize it," he explains. "They could be too close to a situation to maybe assess that.

"But in these types of situations, I mean, just be prepared to share with them in a non-judgmental, in a non-shaming way, that you are concerned about them and maybe we could sit down and talk about it."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds the suicide rate for farmers is 1.5 times higher than the national average, and could be even higher because suicides are sometimes labeled as work-related accidents.

Along with fishing and forestry, these industries have the highest suicide rate of any profession. Overall, North Dakota has the 10th highest suicide rate in the country.

Disclosure: North Dakota Farmers Union contributes to our fund for reporting on Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND