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Monday, May 19, 2014

1….2……3…..ME? (Guest Post)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  I have a very good friend that not only grew up on a farm, but she now is a farmer's wife.  She works for our area mental health clinic and last year she shared some startling statistics about farmers.  Today, she talks about other mental health issues within any population.  Please read and share this one even if you are never shared a post before!!

It’s time to talk.  There is a certain stigma attached to mental illness.  This stigma brings up images of people being whisked away to mental institutions in strait jackets. In reality, situations like this are the exception, not the norm.  Unfortunately, though, many people do not seek treatment for mental illness due to this stigma. 

The faces of mental illness look just like you or I.  According to a national study, one in four adults will struggle with some form of mental illness this year.   When was the last time you were in room with four other people?  Who is that forth person?  Is it your child, your farmer, your parent, or is it you?

Simply stated, mental health represents the ability to successfully cope with daily life and the challenges it brings.  Mental illness represents factors that make this difficult, like depression or anxiety.  Mental illness can be both short and long term. 

Rarely is mental illness outwardly visible.  

Mental illness may be present in that person who seems to have everything going for her.  It may look like that hopeless feeling that the farmer feels after a freeze destroys his wheat crop, and this feeling does not go away.

Mental illness may also look like that new mother who looks into the eyes of her newborn son that she has wanted so much and cannot figure out why she feels extreme sadness instead of joy.

Mental illness is an illness, just like having Diabetes or Hypertension.  

It is not who the person is, it is what they have.  As in most illnesses, it can be treated by mental health professionals, and treatment is very effective.

I write this about a week following a suicide that has rocked the agricultural community.  The event is difficult for most people to understand, and it will always be.  Though no one can truly speak for the experience of the person involved, often people who complete suicide have been suffering alone for some time.  Perhaps they were afraid of losing friends or jobs if it was discovered that they sought treatment for a mental illness.  As a community, we have to work together to build an environment where people understand that they are not alone in this battle and that treatment is not something to fear.

The suicide rate for the American farmers is double the rate of the rest of the American population.  

People who engage in agricultural professions make the list of the top ten professions most likely to have successful suicide attempts.  There are many reasons cited for this, including that agricultural professions tend to be solitary professions, people have no control over income influencing factors like the weather, and the high physical demands of the professions.  As a farm wife, mother, and daughter I find this pretty alarming.

Warning Signs

Often, there are several warning factors that a person may be contemplating suicide.  These include:  increased substance use, heightened anxiety, hopelessness, withdrawing from people, engaging in risky activities, dramatic mood changes, and the sudden desire to “tie up loose ends”.
The best thing that you can do when noticing these signs is talk to the person about them.  Often, this is what it takes for someone to seek help.  You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or your local Community Mental Health Center.  If you believe that a person is an imminent danger to themselves or someone else, contact local law enforcement.  You might just save a life.
  Remember 1…2…..3….ME.  The challenges of mental illness affect all of us, either directly or indirectly at some point in our lives.  It is time to talk about it.

Want to read more about suicide?   Read from one farmer who turned away from suicide and his tips to do the same to kids when he speaks and from Big Sky FarmHer and her battle with Postpartum Depression.-KFM