New campaign to address mental health among farmers

Local News

HILLIARD (WCMH) — The Ohio Department of Agriculture is kicking off a new campaign to help address the issue of mental health among farmers.

The campaign is called Got Your Back.

Studies show that farmers died by suicide at a rate that is more than twice that of the general population.

With an unusually wet spring and the uncertainties of the ongoing trade war with China, this has already been a particularly stressful year for Ohio farmers.

Hilliard area farmer Neall Weber said farmers lose pride in what they do when outside forces make it impossible for them to succeed and make a little profit.

But, he says, farmers tend to keep their emotions to themselves.

“So many farmers are not the best communicators,” Weber said. “I think with this new initiative, that would help farmers find someone that has something in common with them to reach out to and get answers.”

Dorothy Pelanda, Director of Ohio Department of Agriculture, says the #gotyourback campaign website will give farmers immediate access to a mental health expert in their county.

Highland County farmer Nathan Brown says he’s had to seek out the support of fellow farmers at times.

“We’ve seen in this last year to two years with this trade war that sometimes there just is no profitability any time during the year and so it is a real struggle and it’s something that really worries me at times,” Brown said.

Brown now speaks to farmers about mental health at Ohio Farm Bureau events.

“Just in the last month, I’ve had more people than I can count come up and hug me and be bawling their eyes out and say thank you – this is something that’s needed,” Brown said.

Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said part of the goal of the new campaign is to remove the stigma associated with talking about mental health.

“I know that the farm community is ruggedly independent and that’s a real strength often, but sometimes that can be a challenge, too,” Criss said.

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