Feeling holiday stress? These Louisiana cattle producers want you to know — You’re not alone!

A Louisiana mental health advocate and part-time cattle producer explains why talking about mental health is so important in rural communities — especially during the holidays when compounding stress can start to take a mental toll.

While the holiday season is meant to be a time of joy for people around the world, it can also be a dark time for many — especially for those facing hardships and compounding stress through their work in agriculture.

Cattle producers Coye and Katie Corkern are navigating the challenges that accompany the holiday season on their operation near Amite, Louisiana. This year, the joy of the festivities is overshadowed by the trials of a relentless drought and scorching heat that forced them to part with most of their herd.

In addition to raising cattle, the couple both hold off-farm jobs to provide their family with financial stability — Coye, working as a Louisiana State Trooper, and Katie, serving as the executive director of the Louisiana Rural Mental Health Alliance.

As they navigate their own family farm through challenging times, the pair recognizes that many in rural Louisiana rely on a single source of income, which would only intensify the stress caused by on-farm challenges.

“In town, at the local sale barn, there were cars and trucks with trailers of cows for miles because people were having to sell off their cows,” Katie recalls.

The scene was a poignant reminder that farming is more than just an occupation for many in rural communities. Through her work, Katie has gleaned a deep understanding of how dealing with constant struggles on the farm can take a greater mental toll as well as cause a ripple effect that reflects upon entire communities. Having faced her own battles with depression and anxiety, she is also intimately aware of the importance of addressing mental health issues.

“Worrying about the weather, financial stressors, and the debt load that farmers and ranchers often face—that’s a heavy mental load that many people don’t give significance to,” Katie said.

Turning her personal struggles into advocacy, Katie spends her time in Baton Rouge working towards better policies and laws related to mental health. One of the significant issues she tackles is the burden on Medicaid patients and providers in rural areas. The complexity of dealing with multiple Medicaid plans limits provider’s ability to reach more patients, hindering access to mental health services.

Despite the challenges, Katie remains hopeful and encourages others to open up about their struggles.

“I do believe that the stigma is lifting around mental illness and mental health issues because people are starting to talk about it,” she said. By sharing her own experiences with depression and anxiety, she aims to let others know they are not alone.

As winter comes, bringing with it another set of challenges for those grappling with mental health issues, Katie emphasizes the importance of reaching out and connecting with others.

“The more we talk about it and the more we tell our stories, that gives people the chance to tell their story and to know that they’re not alone,” she said.

In partnership with the Louisiana Farm Bureau, Katie directs those in need to valuable mental health resources available on their website, cultivating a community of support and understanding in Louisiana’s heartland.

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