Farmer Health in Agriculture

by Chris Coplan

A recent survey sponsored by The American Farm Bureau Federation shows that 82% of farmers and farmworkers shared that mental health is important to them, with topics such as farm finances, business issues and fear of losing the farm impacting their mental health. This National Farm Safety and Health Week, COUNTRY Financial® and the Illinois Farm Bureau are urging farmers and their families to shift safety into high gear.

Farm families experience frequent stress as they participate in operations that are active 24/7. As family farms are handed down to new generations, younger farmers have likely not experienced layered stresses and should seek assistance in coping.

“This year is the perfect storm with added economic and environmental pressures,” says Luke Raymond, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with OSF Healthcare in Peoria, IL. “I’d encourage all farmers to find someone they trust to have regular conversations with. Mental Health issues are hard for many farmers to talk about or even get access to services in rural areas. That is why many health institutions, like OSF, are adding digital platforms, monitored by a live person, where farmers can log on in privacy and reach out for help.”

Raymond recommends that families review a checklist of signs and symptoms that may indicate mental health needs, such as one provided by the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

“Most farms in Illinois are family-owned and operated,” adds Eric Vanasdale, Loss Control Supervisor for COUNTRY Financial. “Family members and friends can help step up and be the eyes and ears that can step in and provide a needed intervention to keep everyone safe, especially in busier times such as harvest.”

Here are some steps farm families can take to help a farmer remain safe this harvest season:

  1. Listen attentively and without judgement. Try to understand where they are coming from.
  2. Share your concerns about his/her behavior, mood, appearance, etc. Ask questions about changes you observe.
  3. Encourage them to reach out to an expert such as a professional counselor.

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COUNTRY Financial® is the marketing name for the COUNTRY Financial family of affiliated companies (collectively, COUNTRY), which include COUNTRY Life Insurance Company®, COUNTRY Mutual Insurance Company®, and their respective subsidiaries, located in Bloomington, Illinois.