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COVID-19 takes heavy toll on farmers’ mental health

Resources are available through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and farm advocacy organizations like the Farm Bureau for Minnesota farmers experiencing mental health stress. A survey by Farm Bureau shows COVID-19 is adding stress to farmers' lives.

Farmer shutterstock.jpg
A recent national survey shows a majority of rural adult farmers and farm workers said the pandemic has impacted their mental health and more than half said they are personally experiencing more mental health challenges. Shutterstock image

WASHINGTON — COVID-19 is taking a toll on the mental health of American farmers and farm workers.

According to a national survey of 2,000 individuals, conducted in December by the American Farm Bureau poll , a majority of rural adults and farmers/farm workers said the pandemic has impacted their mental health and more than half said they are personally experiencing more mental health challenges than they were since the farm advocacy organization conducted its first rural mental health survey in 2019.

“My takeaway from this survey is that the need for support is real and we must not allow lack of access or a ‘too tough to need help’ mentality to stand in the way,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“We are stepping-up our efforts through our Farm State of Mind campaign, encouraging conversations about stress and mental health and providing free training and resources for farm and ranch families and rural communities,” said Duvall.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture also offers access to free, confidential resources through the Minnesota Farm and Rural Helpline.

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The hotline, which is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, is available by calling 833-600-2670, texting “farmstress” to 898211 or emailing farmstress@state.mn.us

“The pandemic added a mountain of stress to an already difficult year for farmers and they need to know that sometimes it’s OK not to be OK, that people care, and that there’s help and hope,” said Duvall.

Key findings from the survey :

  • Two in three farmers/farmworkers (66%) say the pandemic has impacted their mental health.

  • Half of rural adults (53%) say the pandemic has impacted their mental health at least some, while 44% say it has not impacted their mental health much or at all.

  • Younger rural adults were more likely than older rural adults to say the pandemic has significantly impacted their mental health.

  • Farmers and farmworkers were 10% more likely than rural adults as a whole to have experienced feeling nervous, anxious or on edge during the pandemic (65% vs. 55%).

  • The percentage of farmers/farmworkers who say social isolation impacts farmers’ mental health increased 22% since April 2019, a significant finding given the long hours many farmers work alone.

  • Half of rural adults (52%) aged 18-34 say they have thought more about their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than other age groups.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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