As we continue to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month, farm and ranch industry leaders are encouraging their counterparts to seek out and use resources available to improve their mental health. 

Farming is a stressful occupation that is associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression. Multiple studies show that farmer suicide rates are 2-5x higher than the national average. Experiences such as natural disasters, extreme weather events, financial uncertainty, fluctuating markets, labor shortages, trade disruptions, and other factors all contribute to extreme stress for farmers and ranchers who often live in very isolated settings. This can lead to an increased need for resources related to mental health. 

“It is important to break the stigma around mental health challenges and encourage those struggling to reach out for help,” said Valjay Rigby, President of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation. “To build a sustainable future for agriculture for our state and nation, we must promote the wellbeing of our farmers and ranchers. We need to be there for each other, and I hope the resources available can be used by our farmers and ranchers. If these can even be a step in the direction of helping someone get the help they need, they are worth it.” 

Utah State University (USU) Extension partnered with the Utah Department of Agriculture & Food (UDAF) to create a website of resources – Ag Wellness – that farmers and ranchers can use to improve their own mental health or help their neighbors who might be in need. The effort is also focused on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and increasing the number of people getting the help they need.

As part of this effort, USU Extension also collaborated to provide vouchers redeemable for $2,000 worth of counseling visits with trained professionals specifically focused on the unique needs of agriculture. The program was so successful, that unfortunately, funding for the vouchers is no longer available. However, there are many resources still available for use, including connecting farmers & ranchers to ag-specific counseling options – many of them being available remotely. 

“While the vouchers are no longer available, this is a great resource for farmers and ranchers to use,” said Josh Dallin, Director of the USU Bastian Agricultural Center and program lead for Ag Wellness. “Many would invest financial resources for the health of their farm animals or take their equipment in for needed maintenance, and we are all much more valuable than these and in need of help. If you find yourself simply needing someone to share concerns with, please use the resources available. It’s ok to not be ok, and there are many around that are willing to listen and help.” 

The Ag Wellness website features resources like podcasts and articles on personal, couple, and family wellness, online courses that teach skills for stress management as well as how you can be a mental health advocate for others, and links to connect farmers with mental health counseling.

UDAF has created the Ag Stress Assistance Program (ASAP) websitewhich has additional resources available. The American Farm Bureau has also created the Farm State of Mind campaign,  to build awareness to reduce stigma and provide access to information and resources that promote farmer and rancher mental health wellness. This includes testimonials of farmers and their families who have struggled with mental health, resources such as Togetherall(an anonymous peer-to-peer online community that empowers farmers and their families to get and give support), and more.

If you or a loved one are in immediate need of assistance, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline 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. You can also reach the Utah Crisis line at 800-273-TALK (8255).