Farmers Need Mental Health Support. PA Officials Encourage Them to Ask for It

Pennsylvania officials want rural residents to know they are not alone during the holidays and winter months. (Shutterstock Photo/Daria Chichkareva)

By Ashley Adams

December 10, 2020

Leaders from the Human Services and Agriculture departments want rural residents to know about valuable resources.

The risk for mental health issues in rural, agricultural communities is already high.

Stress from work-related isolation, lack of access to resources, and unrelenting workloads are common in the farming industry. But the problems have only increased for farmers during the novel coronavirus pandemic as markets have failed or disappeared and services have been hard to get, state Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said this week.

And now a much needed diversion from work and pandemic worries is being stripped away due to necessary coronavirus mitigation efforts.

“This year, our holiday norms and traditions may not be safe,” said Teresa Miller, the state Secretary for the Department of Human Services. “Being apart is always hard. These challenges are felt more acutely than ever. No matter what you are feeling, you don’t have to endure it alone.”

Miller and Redding on Wednesday encouraged farmers and those who love them to reach out for mental health help if they need it.

“We must be willing to wade into the awkwardness of mental health,” Redding said. “Help starts with a conversation. Silence is not going to solve this problem. We must watch out for one another ourselves.”

Resources for the Agricultural Community

Redding and Miller highlighted the mental wellness resources available to all Pennsylvania residents, but especially rural farmers:

  • Persevere PA: free mental health support and referral helpline available 24/7 (including holidays) and staffed by skilled counselors. Call 855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600. Or text “PA” to 741-741.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP
  • State Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs: anonymous chat service
  • United Way 211 Network: www.pa211.org or text your ZIP code to 898211 for local resources

Signs of Mental Health Issues

“I don’t think we can talk enough about mental health because of its impact,” Redding said. “It takes a toll on relationships, self-worth, and outlook on life.”

Signs of deteriorating mental health in agriculture workers might include:

  • Decline in care of crops, animals, and farm;
  • Deterioration of personal appearance;
  • Increase in farm accidents;
  • Change in routine;
  • Increased physical complaints; and/or
  • Increase in alcohol use.

If you or your loved ones are experiencing mental health issues, the most important thing to do is talk about it and get help, Miller said. Feelings are a hard subject to talk about, especially among rural farmers, but expressing your emotions and realizing you are not alone is important.

“No matter what you are facing or feeling, do not be afraid to make that call,” Miller said.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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