Focus on stress at Ag Safety Conference
UPDATE: Friday, March 13 at 12:15 p.m.
The Delaware Farm Bureau’s Ag Safety Conference has been postponed. It has not been rescheduled at this time.
For more information, visit https://defb.org/delaware-farm-bureau-ag-safety-conference-postponed/.
ORIGINAL REPORT: Friday, March 6 at 1 p.m.
It’s no secret that farming is a stressful occupation. Conversations about depression and mental health in farming have accelerated as overall suicide rates in the U.S. climb by 40%. A January study by the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that farmers are some of the most at risk.
A combination of plummeting commodity prices, rising farm debt, trade wars and the unpredictability of extreme weather coincide with the trend, which is even more prevalent in the Midwest.
For example, weather like extreme flooding in the Midwest prevented American farmers from planting 19.6 million acres in 2019, according to data from USA TODAY.
Still, in a state where agriculture contributes $8 billion to the economy and farms make up 39% of the land, Delaware farmers are not immune to stressors like climate change, said Maria Pippidis of the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension.
Pippidis will talk about managing stress at the Ag Safety Conference March 18 at the Harrington Volunteer Fire Company.
“It’s a little different here in Delaware but there have been subtle weather issues that really do make an impact,” she said. “We’re not having the extreme water-related weather but we’re having extreme temperature-related weather that changes the ecosystem subtly but can have profound effects.” She said the lack of a hard frost can affect when pests emerge or the growth of bacteria and viruses that may impact livestock.
Farmers in rural Delaware can face barriers to getting help, such as finding an affordable service provider or making time to travel to see a counselor.
“When you’re seeing a counselor it’s multiple sessions over time, being able to pay for the deductible and having the time to go is both a financial cost but also a time cost, [and] many people aren’t making the choice to do that,” she said.
If farmers are unable to manage their stress, Pippidis said it can be a risk to their safety and the success of their farm. “Investing in oneself and one’s own health is important to the vitality of the farm,” she said. “If there isn’t a ‘you,’ there is no farm.”
Stress about finances, for example, can cause farmers to work harder and sleep less, which can affect their health and relationships. At the conference, Pippidis will talk about strategies to be mindful and recognize signs of extreme stress.
She is now forming a Delaware Farm Stress Awareness Task Force with representatives from the Farm Bureau, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, Delmarva Poultry Institute and more. Anyone interested in joining can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those who work with farming communities, the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and Delaware Farm Bureau are hosting 8-hour classes on mental health first aid across the state. For more, visit www.udel.edu/extension/mhfa.
Mental health first aid training
For training focused on signs, symptoms and support strategies for adults:March 19, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Carvel Research &Education Center, Georgetown April 23, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Milford Library, Milford May 28, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Paradee Center, Dover June 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Farm Services Agency Dover
For training on helping youth:May 11 and 18, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Paradee Center, Dover June 9 and 11, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Carvel Research & Education Center, Georgetown
COST: $10 per person