FORD COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – A recent study by the CDC found that over the past two decades, suicide rates across the United States have increased by 40%. Part of the population hit hardest, live in rural areas.
The CDC reports that suicide rates in rural counties are 1.7 times the rate of those in urban counties, raising concern that mental health is a growing problem outside of larger cities.
The American Farm Bureau Federation found that two in five rural adults say stress and mental health issues within their community have increased in the past five years and 48% are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than they were a year ago.
The CDC also found that farmers are among some of the most likely to die by suicide compared to other occupations. This is a cause for worry for mental health professionals.
“When you’re outside on a tractor all day, by yourself, you can get in your head. When you live out on a farm and you’re twenty minute, miles from town, you don’t get to town very often,” said Deb Moffitt, Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker and co-founder of Ford County Suicide Coalition.
Experts believe a majority of the issues stem from uncontrollable stressors such as commodity prices, weather, and government regulations.
Farm Bureau found a staggering number of farmers believe factors related to farming negatively impact their mental health; (91%) financial issues, (87%) fear of losing their farm, and (88%) the daily problems of running their operations are the leading stressors.
A major obstacle in rural America is the lack of mental health resources. Farm Bureau reports only 46% of farmers have access to a mental health therapist or counselor in their community.
“Some just decide, ‘I’m okay. I don’t need to drive all over Kansas to get help.’ And you can’t blame them for that. But what I hate to see is that they’ve put the barrier up without finding out first,” said Moffitt.
But an even bigger issue may be mental health stigma.
“They tend to feel like they have to be the strong one in the family and that means they can’t let anyone know close to them, their family or their friends, their community, that they might be struggling,” said Maria Cooper, Licensed Professional Counselor
But advocates want everyone to know, you are not weak or alone. If there is not a mental health specialist within your community, to speak with your local doctor, minister, or someone you trust.
“We want to help give you the support that you need so you can keep going and pass on your family legacy to the next generation,” said Cooper.
They say asking for help may be the most difficult step, but is the most important.
For more information on where to get help, click here.
You can also visit Farm Bureau‘s website for additional helplines, training programs, and other resources.
To talk to a suicide prevention advocate, call this hotline number 1-800-273-82-55. Services are available 24 hours a day if you or someone you know needs to ask for help.