Silent Crisis: Higher suicide rate among farmers linked to increased work stress, depression

Farmers stress over the uncertainty in weather, commodity prices, finances, and more. These are all factors that can elevate the risk of suicide. Mental health advocates want farmers to know they don’t have to suffer in silence.

Farmers stress over the uncertainty in weather, commodity prices, finances, and more. These are all factors that can elevate the risk of suicide.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) article published in 2020, Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation — National Violent Death Reporting System, 32 States, 2016, reports the suicide rate among males who work in farming and ranching was 43.2 per 100,000 among farmers and ranchers in 2016, compared to 27.4 per 100,000 among male working aged adults across all occupations.

Suicide rates among working-age people (ages 16–64) have increased by 40 percent over the last two decades, according to the CDC. Farming has the ninth-highest suicide rate among all major industries included in National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) data linking suicides with occupation. Medical doctors, dentists, and police officers top this list.

Experts say there are two main occupational factors that increase a person’s risk of suicide: job factors (like job stress, low job security, low pay), and increased access to lethal means (like medication and firearms).

James Barham, director of counseling at Living Well Professional Counseling says depression and anxiety are certainly the main diagnoses that we see in rural Mississippi Delta farming communities, but also throughout our state.

To combat this silent crisis, Barham uses the acronym F.A.R.M.:

F: Faith, family, and friends

A: Adjustments

R: Rythm

M: Mending your fences

Saying this helps take care of relationships so that you are not putting things off emotionally. Barham likewise advises farmers and others struggling with their mental health to not allow their anger to carry into tomorrow and to make sure to take care of the “homefront” — and what matters most.

If you, or someone you know, is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988.

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

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