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Studies show that farmer suicide rates are several times higher than the national average. Jessica Cabrera, managing director of member engagement with the American Farm Bureau Federation, says mental health among farmers and ranchers is an important topic to discuss, particularly during Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

“There are just so many unpredictable experiences in farming. Experiences such as natural disasters, lots of financial uncertainty, fluctuating markets, labor shortages, trade disruptions. There are so many factors that contribute to extreme stress for farmers and ranchers. And they also often live in a very isolated setting, which can compound the issue. I think it’s really important to break the stigma around mental health challenges.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, the Farm State of Mind website has many resources to help.

“You’ll find a national resource directory that is searchable. You’ll find helpful tips like how to help someone in emotional pain or how to start a conversation with someone. We have videos, including video and radio public service announcements. We have a peer-to-peer support community resource called ‘Together All’. That resource offers a space for farm family members ages 16 and older a way to express themselves anonymously and to receive and give peer support.”

Cabrera says anyone can be an advocate for mental health in rural America.

“I would say the most impactful way to advocate for mental health wellness among farmers and ranchers is to let everyone know it’s okay not to be okay. Just reducing that stigma alone, encouraging those who are struggling to reach out for help and to let them know that that is a completely acceptable way to move forward. Empowering people to believe that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.”

For more information, go to fb.org/farmstateofmind.